Territorial planning of land use is an urgent need in southern South America. The area cultivated with soybean, and Eucalyptus and Pinus, is expanding at increasing rates in both grasslands and forests of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Territorial disputes motivated by land use changes have affected basic human rights of peasants and aboriginal people. Throughout southern South America, the costs and benefits of these land transformation for the different stakeholders are poorly characterized, and the benefits are not available to the most vulnerable social sectors. The main goal of our project is to make operational the concept of Ecosystem Services (ES) for land use planning in southern South America We will focus on landscapes of the Rio de la Plata Grasslands of Argentina and Uruguay, the dry-forests of the Gran Chaco (Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia), and the Valdivian forests of south-central Chile.
In this project, we will emphasize ecosystem aspects related to: (a) carbon dynamics (e.g. Net Primary Production, C stocks and losses, carbon released by fires); (b) water (e.g. evapotranspiration, hydrological yield and quality); (c) climate regulation; (d) trace gas (e.g. NOx) emissions; and (e) type and distribution of habitats (e.g. landscape structure and configuration). For some specific landscapes, we will also analyze the potential for recovery of ES through the restoration of ecosystems and landscapes that have been impaired or degraded.
ES supply will be evaluated in a spatially explicit manner, by describing the ecosystem processes that support ecosystem services with relative (unit-less) ES values, and based on the assessment of ES vulnerability according to ES delivery (social capture and distribution) and ecosystem recovery after agricultural replacement. For the landscapes to be selected in each of the three regions, we will develop specific ES production functions according to the characteristics of the Socio-Ecological Systems. We will characterize the past and current distribution of Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) types for the landscapes to be analyzed and their regional context. An important part of the project will be the analyses of stakeholders and of the governance in each of the landscapes.
A team of 23 researchers from 9 institutions and 5 countries will merge their complementary backgrounds, generating novel insights on ES theory and on the application of the ES framework for territorial planning. The project includes an important component of capacity building through training programs oriented to both the professional sectors and to local stakeholders. The existing partnership with government agencies, NGOs, the private sector, and other stakeholders provide the basis for dissemination and application of the results of the project. At the end of the project we hope to have: a) a better understanding of the effect of functional and structural diversity of landscapes on the provision of ES, b) a comprehension of the effect of social and cultural capital on ES supply and demand in the different landscapes studied, c) impact and production functions for key intermediate and final services for the three regions under study, d) toolboxes that allow an effective integration of the ES paradigm into territorial planning and, e) a greater capacity to influence territorial planning processes through trained agents and stakeholders. Peer review articles on the more basic aspects of our agenda, a synthesis book, regional meetings and workshops, and an established program to train professional agents and stakeholders will be the objective indicators of the level of achievement of our goals.