Dr. Juan Armesto: "if not redesign the way in how they generate raw materials in forest areas, the fires will happen again"

Dr. Juan Armesto: "if not redesign the way in how they generate raw materials in forest areas, the fires will happen again"

Forest fires that affected our country at the beginning of this year caused unquantifiable losses in human, natural and economic aspects. While these events are own region that maintains a high abundance in forests, as a country we were on several occasionsfront of a scenario that seemed uncontrollable.

In this sense, and beyond any political consideration, the biology society of Chile, talked with Dr. Juan Armesto, who graduated in Sciences of the University of Chile (1977) and PhD in Botany and plant physiology from Rutgers University (1984), also is Professor Titular of the Department of ecology of the Faculty of biological sciences of the Catholic University Pontificia of Chile and current President of the Corporation Institute of ecology and biodiversity.

Fundamentally, the interview of Dr. Armesto was aiming to clarify concepts that emerged in the discussion come off these fires, as for example, the role of introduced species and endemic species in the development and propagation of claims. In addition, try to clarify the role of human beings in the occurrence of fire in ecosystems that the day of today they make up one of the main productive engines of the country.

Then the interview that the society of biology of Chile made to Dr. Juan Armesto.

Is it amazing these accidents occur in our country's forests?

First of all, it is pertinent to clarify that fire is an element present in the forests around the world. In that sense, where beech forest there will be a regime of fires that occur by natural causes, anthropogenic or a mixture of both.

The wood is fuel, and in that case, as some say "everything Burns". Plus not all Woods burn in the same way. Becoming regimes of different fires that occur at different times, with magnitudes and divergent recurrences depending on the territory. This last point (linked to recurrence), from a biological perspective, is very important, since where recurrence is high it operates natural and propitious to fires - selection because greater amount of fuel, dry material or because ecosystem is prone to fire by climatic factors as thunderstorms, or simply by the irresponsibility of the humans - to facilitate the emergence of species whose traits favour its regeneration through fire.

What is the regeneration of species favored by fire?

In many species of plants, especially in some of Australia and South Africa - there are seeds germinating through the fire, either by high temperatures in the soil or ashes.

Sometimes the fruits - structures that contain seeds, and pine nuts (in the case of conifers) can be - develop the character opens when dry, and through this process, produce the scattering of seeds after fire, so there is a dependent feedback.

Examples of these reproductive traits are found in places in the world where the recurrence of fire is high (in the areas of Mediterranean climate, for example). In them, the summer is dry and the winters are short and rainy, like in California, the Mediterranean basin, Australia or South Africa, where fires are very common. With frequencies in fires less than 20 years, the species have mechanisms that allow them to regenerate.

The same happens in reverse, when the human suppresses fire - through policies of fire trucks, pump trucks or aircraft - combat, which are fire-resistant species disappear and grow others with different characteristics.

In ecosystems where recurrence is high, the species may possess certain traits (such as types of wood, bark, resins) that make them more susceptible to burn in a shorter time and quickly spread the fire. This is the case of eucalyptus in their native territory (Australia) place where more than 500 species of this genus.

In the year 2003, in Australia there was a fire that undermined thousands of hectares of forests of eucalyptus trees, which are native. In a few days, affected thousands of homes and caused the deaths of hundreds of people. This was a major disaster and fire was very difficult to control by the speed of propagation.

What happens when a sort of a country is moved to another (analyzing the case of eucalyptus)?

Humans are carriers of numerous outside the territory (exotic) species, many of them deliberately. These species moved them for use in the production of food, to make gardens or as raw material (wood), however, must realize that when we bring an alien species, not only we are integrating the tree, but it also, disturbance regime that is defined by its natural features, since many species must go through a system of disturbance to be able to regenerate itself.

How adapts an introduced species?

The transfer of the commercial species of trees and agricultural purposes, is done by selecting species that are compatible with the place that are being introduced.

In Australia there are Mediterranian as in Chile, so that eucalyptus is given very well in our land, in some cases, even better. The Monterrey pine, for example, is another species that has been introduced and that occurs perfectly in Chile, as well as el Espinillo - dark green shrub that grows in the South of Chile - which was brought by German settlers from Europe in the area of the Lakes - first as a live fence and plant garden - and now it can be observed from Talca to Chiloé shaped patches of high density and highly flammable, by the way.

Species, to put them in a new place, often spread more easily, because they have fewer organisms that attack them. For example, there are species that had to live with predators in their native environment as herbivores, pathogens or fungi, which made them harm, and to be taken to another room, escape from them and spread naturally, in some cases, can be invasive in the area to which it was transferred.

Species of pine and eucalyptus, introduced in Chile, are not as invasive as they require management and control of native species.

Where is responsible for fires that affected our country at the beginning of the year?

The fires have no single cause, these are multiple and what we are seeing is the materialization of a problem that has to do with an ecological system transformed, a novel "ecosystem" associated with human beings.

We as humans are inserts with our houses and roads - literally - in the forests and in addition with our actions we have promoted changes in ecosystems (felling, short and replacement of forests for plantations or grasslands). This has happened in a place under a Mediterranean climate, where there is a high susceptibility to fire.

It is essential to understand that ecosystems are subject to change by the current climate scenario. There is a very good job of the Institute CR2 which speaks of the mega drought in recent decades in Chile, and how they have become, every day, more common. Under these changing conditions in the climate of central Chile, where millions of human beings, concentrate, we have a panorama of high risk of catastrophe by fire.

Now, many thought that this fire could occur. In fact a research made in 2012 and published in Chile talks about the expansion of the forestry industry in the area of Maule and Bío Bío, and concluded that the amount of flammable material and the risk of spread of fire have increased. This study through the application of a theoretical model proposes that conditions increasingly were being more risky. While this seems very easy to stop, there are conditions social and economic that determine does not act in response. Under that scenario, if still equal, it is highly likely that unfortunate events like this happen again.

What is the message that would leave the society around this issue?

We have to do things differently to revenir these catastrophes, for that we must rethink the way we develop and manage our production systems. At the same time we must reflect deeply on how it will proceed in these matters, but while scientific knowledge associated with every step that we take.

It is important that we clear the landscape create it human beings, since we are people who live in this current landscape, and if the condition of this landscape promotes the recurrence of fire, we can be affected.

Source: 4ID/CONGRESS, All rights reserved. ®
Journalist:Patricio Grunert Alarcón. ®

To be reproduced please contact:support@4id.clocomunicaciones@4id.cl
Quote as source a: 4ID-CONGRESS® /Patricio Grunert Alarcón, All rights reserved. ®