The concept of altered landscapes providing ecological benefits for native species may seem controversial. However, reality is often more complex than initial assessments indicate. In Central Chile, pine plantations and trout are often found at the same elevations. Both pine trees and trout are not native to Chile, but there is ample evidence from around the Northern Hemisphere (where trout are native) that plantation forestry can have seriously deleterious effects on resident trout populations, due to increased sediment transport and decreased stream shading, both of which reduce the amount of available habitat for trout (among other things). Furthermore, examining the native species of Central Chile, we see that the much of the community is comprised of generalist species that can occupy a wide range of river settings, including those that are far warmer with more sediment than trout prefer. Finally, we know that the movement range of trout in Central Chilean rivers are highly delimited by thermal boundaries (meaning that they are only really found in the foothills and mountain streams during much of the year, but can descend into the valleys during the winter).
When considered together, we are presented with an interesting question: can pine plantations create negative pressures on trout that are far greater than any potential negative pressure on native species? In this study, I examined rainbow trout caught in 10 headwater basins (5 from pine-plantation-dominated basins, 5 from native-forest-dominated basins; see above) to see if there was any effect on populations’ physical condition (basically the ratio of a fish’s length to its weight).
The manuscript detailing findings from this study are have been published by Fishes.
Dr. Shaw Lacy’s abstract on “What defines a river? Modelling the interplay between physical and social driving factors in characterising the waterways in Chile” was accepted for oral presentation at the Routes towards Sustainability 2018 Symposium, whose theme is “Cultures and local practices of sustainability: Intersecting multiple footprints and the environmental humanities” in Session 1: The Environmental Humanities, which is described as:
Life as we know it can be sustained only if we understand and significantly mitigate the forms of pressure relentlessly exerted on our planet. Although innumerable scientific measurements and alarming reports have been produced, the impact of humans on Earth remains massive. Scientific reports per se fail if they remain disconnected from rhetorical, political, social, cultural, and affective forms through which climate change is experienced and figured by diverse communities.
At the Puerto de Ideas Festival in 2014 Bruno Latour proposed that scientists, artists, and social agents bring together a “composition”, the only feasible mode of conveying messages that can permeate our imaginaries, help us take responsibility for the global crisis, introduce cultural changes, and stimulate creative relationships with the environment. Such composition can be achieved by means of interdisciplinary collaborations. Latour’s metaphor of composition is on e that suggests how the environmental humanities can go forward.
This panel, dedicated to innovative dialogues among the humanities, the arts, and ecological sciences, will serve as a platform for creative and critical thinking that can inspire cultural changes.
The Symposium will be held between the Casa Central and Villarrica Campus of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile from 10 to 14 December, 2018.
Dr. Shaw Lacy has published research in The Geographical Journal, together with Prof. Luca Mao (University of Lincoln, formerly at the Departamento de Ecosistemas y Medio Ambiente), and Prof. Piergiorgio Digiminiani (Programa de Antropología) titled, “What Defines a River? Modelling the interplay between physical and social driving factors in characterizing the waterways in Chile.” The article is available at DOI: 10.1111/geoj.12262. The research examines the ways in which Chilean rivers are categorized from the arid north, through the Mediterranean center, to the subpolar south of the country.
Although climate, topography, and geology can create a large spectrum of waterways, societies have categorized this variety of waterways into different categories, with “river” (río) generally being determined as the largest set of waterways in an area. However, this is a highly relative definition, and fails to adequately account for the variety of ways in which climates can shape hydrological regimes. Indeed, Chile presents a great example in which to examine the ways in which society and climate have mixed together to define the narrow waterway of the Lluta in Northern Chile as “río” even though its active channel is narrower than even an average sized estero in the Biobío basin.
The categorization of natural landscape features places a socialized and ordered lens on the landscape. In the case of natural waterways, it creates a regional hydrologic vocabulary, based in physical processes and cultural history. This study uses the unique combination of hydrological and cultural characteristics found in Chile to determine the degree to which local waterway classifications of waterways as rivers (río in Spanish) provides insights to the cultural role in perceiving and describing such important landscape elements. The results indicate that waterway classification is strongly influenced by different regional cultural perspectives, which are also affected by their regional climates and specific historical processes of cartographic systematization and nation-making. This variety of hydrologic vocabularies presents distinct zones of waterway classification throughout Chile, with implications of these differences affecting territorial planning, water management, and even international relations.
Dr. Shaw Lacy will be attending the XIV Congreso de la Sociedad Chilena de Limnoloía. The conference, titled “Sistemas acuáticos frende al cambio global,” is being hosted by the Instituto de Fomento Pesquero (IFOP) in the southern Chilean city of Puerto Montt from the 23rd to the 25th of October.
Dr. Lacy will give a presentation titled “¿Sabemos en dónde están los peces? Mapear los hábitats de peces fluviales chilenos a través del uso de factores de gran escala” and teaching a workshop course titled “Vinculando la ecología fluvial con la gestión territorial a través de la macroecología.” The presentations are based on his research results from a large-scale project from the Chilean Ministry of Energy (Estudio de Cuencas), looking at sustainable hydroelectricity, where he worked in collaboration with many faculty members from the Centro de Cambio Global, including Luca Mao and Sebastián Vicuña.
Portions of this research are currently being written up as individual research papers, for publication in early 2018.
Throughout the world, environmental assessments (EAs) are used to determine likely impacts of large scale projects and activities on the environment. The Chilean environmental assessment system (SEIA) has been in place for roughly 20 years, and during that time, Chile has constructed many water projects (including dams and canals), and aquaculture (especially salmon aquaculture) has boomed. With a dearth of information about native freshwater fishes, one question that came to mind was to see how large-scale projects (that are known to have significant deleterious impacts on freshwater fishes throughout the world) could assess their potential impacts to a freshwater fish fauna that was so poorly defined.
In Chile, EAs are split into two basic categories: Declaraciones de Impacto Ambiental (DIAs) and Estodios de Impacto Ambiental (EIAs). DIAs represented the vast majority of all water projects and aquaculture activities (i.e., >90%), and – of the subsample assessed – none contained any characterization or assessment of freshwater fishes. EIAs for aquaculture activities also contained no characterization freshwater fishes or assessments of impacts to freshwater fishes. In contrast, of 33 EIAs for water projects, 21 contained some sort of characterization of freshwater fishes, but there was no standardization of methodologies, there was evidence of misidentification of fishes, and no (apparent) assessment of potential issues associated with the sampling gear used. Furthermore, only 2 contained any quantitative assessment of potential impacts to characterized fishes. In all, less than 1% of all EAs in aquaculture and water projects included any characterization of freshwater fishes that could be affected by the project, less than 0.1% quantitatively assessed the impacts of the project in question to local fishes, and none assessed impacts to the larger watershed.
The general assessment of the Chilean EA process is that is is not currently set up to characterize resident freshwater fishes or assess impacts to those fishes due to the projects in question. It also is not currently set up to assess the larger impacts of projects within a watershed context (let alone a multi-watershed context, as in the case of salmon aquaculture). However, recent and current programs at the ministerial level toward increased sustainable development – in addition to movement on a biodiversity conservation law – imply potential for change to include freshwater fish conservation at various stages of territorial and site planning.
The manuscript for this evaluation is currently under review.