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The influence of markets and culture on the use of native forests in the south of Chile Reyes Gallardo, René Alberto


Chile´s native forests are one of the world´s 25 priority conservation ecoregions due to their high levels of endemism. These forests have been strongly disturbed by human activities in the past, which has resulted in high levels of deforestation and forest degradation. In Chile, 70% of forests are in private lands, so their fate depends on landowners´ decisions. Current knowledge about factors influencing these decisions is limited. In this research I analyzed (a) the cause-effect relationship between firewood production and deforestation/forest degradation, (b) the underlying drivers of timber extraction and livestock browsing, and their joint pressure on forests, and (c) the influence of culture on the use of forests. 315 surveys with landowners were performed in the Los Rios Region in two field campaigns, one in 2012 (pre-sampling) and the other in 2013 (sampling). I also carried out 173 economic games to measure both time and risk behaviors. I found that the decision to produce commercial firewood depends on native forest cover (%), the proportion of off-farm income (%), and an additional eight variables, which create contexts where firewood is either a permanent component of the productive system, or only a secondary activity (non-permanent). Firewood production was not found to be the primary driver of deforestation and only in some specific contexts there was evidence that it could be related to forest degradation. Moreover, livestock over-browsing has a higher impact on forests than timber extraction. While forest overharvesting is largely restricted to very specific contexts of low schooling and availability of off-farm incomes, and can present inter-annual fluctuations, forest over-browsing is a permanent structural driver. The total pressure on forests not only depends on farm size, but also on the balance between different land uses. More balanced farms show a lower pressure on forests. From a cultural standpoint, the three cultural groups that were compared show differences in terms of time and risk behaviors, which in turn influence the use of forests. Time and risk behaviors affect consumption rates (timber extraction) and investments in new tree plantations, which can replace native forests in supplying markets, preventing further degradation.

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