Rising from the ashes: the arduous (and silent) task of reforesting the burnt forests of southern Argentina


Argentinian Patagonia, a southern region characterized by its mountains, lakes and dry climate, often suffers from fires that affect the environment as well as the towns and villages in the region. If the affected hectares are counted from the beginning of the year to the end of June in the provinces of Chubut (16,919), Neuquén (1,245), Río Negro (19,920) and Santa Cruz (2,233), there was a total of 40,317, according to him Ministry of the Environment. This, given that in jurisdictions such as Tierra del Fuego, the executive does not have official data.

In this context, certain public entities and volunteer citizens intend to reforest the forests where there was only ashes and burnt nature. Indeed, the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) has developed tasks of implantation in the Otto hill, of the city of Bariloche, an emblematic tourist destination for contemplating beautiful landscapes, cycling, hiking and skiing in the winter season.

These activities have been carried out in four stages since 2018, and so far they have been placed 11,500 tree seedlings on an area of ​​24 hectares. The last deployment took place in May, with the help of the NGO Circuito Verde and 70 people who came to collaborate, in areas of the hill damaged by fires in 1995 and 2013.

For its part, INTA was obliged to look for volunteers and to pay for the work out of its own funds because since 2019, the national state has stopped providing additional funding for forest restoration. In fact, this project was planned to last three years, but only received the budget for the first, limiting the tasks.

How nature comes back to life

Mario Pastorino, forestry researcher at INTA, explains that degraded forests can regenerate passively, that is to say naturally. However, when this does not happen, a active intervention: “In these cases, it is necessary for man to ensure the regeneration of the ecosystem, by planting the main trees,” he says. The expert specifies that the placement of these components is essential for the reappearance of other characteristic living beings, “such as grasses, shrubs, birds and insects”, and all that makes up a wild environment.

In the case of Cerro Otto, the lenga forest – a kind of oak tree – failed to rebuild itself, which is why the participants got to work. Likewise, the environmental mission is not suitable for the anxious, because you have to wait a long time to see the results: “Here in Patagonia the growth rates are slow because the climate is cold. ten years after planting, we hope that we will pass and see a young forest, with trees two meters high, ”Pastorino explains.

From now on, the damage is still visible: “There is like a hole of several hectares which have been burnt, it is a pasture. The trees are still charred, who remained standing, ”describes the interviewee.

With this scenario, another concern of experts is spread myths, for example, that after a fire nature would develop with more vitality. In truth, this is just a visual effect.

With this scenario, another concern of experts is spread myths, for example, that after a fire nature would develop with more vitality. In truth, this is a simple visual effect, favored by the appearance of flowers and grass. “We see the forest in a static way. It seems like it’s the same all the time, but it’s always growing, “he introduces. And he specifies:” When there is a drastic change, with a fire that burns everything, in a short time we see that the species pioneers are starting to re-colonize, which is characterized by very rapid initial growth, ”he explains.

Can we reforest on a large scale?

In addition to the slowness of the restoration process, the budget cuts and the high costs of reforestation, there is another challenge: “You have to develop the plants, the basic input. This is a very big bottleneck in the Patagonia region, why these are seedlings of native species and there is very little production in regional nurseries ”, laments the engineer.

This is because, among the main obstacles, is the lack of seeds, since there is no market for these types of seeds. “We have to harvest them from the forest, but some species don’t produce every year,” Pastorino explains. And he adds: “These are not the typical ornamental – decorative – or domestic plants. They are small hardy seedlings, with very good roots, because they have to endure on their own, without us watering them.

Anyway, the connoisseur believes that large-scale reforestation is possible in Argentina: “It is possible, if the continuity of the works and the financing is guaranteed. This allows us to plan, and to take advantage of years of good sowing, to accumulate seeds. and produce plants in quantity. “However, the present is very different, and today everything is paralyzed:” In May we use all the stock of plants available to us, 1,500 lenga. We should be producing more, ”he remarks.

For Pastorino, the key is to stop looking for solutions for the next year and start designing long-term answers. Something which, a priori, goes against the Argentinian tradition.

Leandro Lutzky

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Disclaimer: This article is generated from the feed and is not edited by our team.

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