With virtual forums they seek to protect the natural heritage of the Elqui Valley

-The activity had the participation of Milen Duarte, IEB researcher, and Aníbal Pauchard, Ramiro Bustamante and Francisco Squeo, also scientists from our center.

With the objective of promoting the care and protection of the Elqui Valley, and maintaining active dialogue with the community that inhabits this territory, a series of virtual conversations were developed. Pandemic and environment, consequences of mining in the sector, prospects for protecting the Valley, light pollution and seizure of water, were the topics that were addressed in the cycle of forums "EducAcción, protecting the Elqui Valley."

The conference, which had the participation of researchers from the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, social leaders and inhabitants of the Elquina community, was organized by the NGO Corporación Elqui Valle Sagrado, and Milen Duarte, environmental biologist and candidate for a doctorate in ecology from the IEB and the University of Chile.

“The idea of ​​this forum arose from the community itself with the aim of covering problems related to the Elqui Valley and the need to dialogue among the inhabitants themselves, about the risks and threats that the territory faces today. The activity was also developed in order to publicize the work that we have been doing for some time, in the environmental field and the protection of biodiversity”, comments the IEB scientist.

The motivation was specified after observing mining prospecting work at the beginning of this year, and even more so, when in March an environmental impact study was presented as a result of a mining project that would cover from the commune of La Serena to Vicuña, "study in the one that we also seek to participate and submit our observations ”, declares Milen Duarte.


The first talk, dedicated to the pandemic and the environment, was held on July 14, and included the participation of IEB researchers, Aníbal Pauchard -from the University of Concepción- and Ramiro Bustamante -from the U. de Chile. During the activity, Pauchard pointed out that global change is harming biodiversity and putting more and more pressure on natural ecosystems. He also addressed the effects of invasive species, whose introduction into new territories, caused by human action and globalization, generates imbalances and favors critical processes such as the current pandemic. The beaver, the European bumblebee, the blackberry, the harlequin ladybug, and viruses such as SARS-CoV2, are examples that the scientist highlighted.

For his part, Ramiro Bustamante addressed the origin and history of pandemics, and the conditions that favor these processes, such as the relationship between human beings and our biodiversity. Urban expansion, possession of exotic pets and consumption of native animals are some of the engines that accelerate zoonoses and the development of emerging diseases, according to the researcher. In the case of the coronavirus and its relationship with ecology, the IEB scientist explained that viruses are “obligatory parasites, with very short lives and a high capacity for mutation”, thus generating a co-evolution or arms war, in their link with humans. .

During the activity, the ecologist from the University of Chile also made a call to consolidate information channels based on evidence that, in reality, can be a support to citizens, promoting critical thinking and not confusion.

Elqui Valley and last snowfalls |
Credit: Valle Elqui Sagrado Corporation

The second forum, held on July 21, delved into the "Consequences of mining in the Elqui Valley." Milen Duarte participated in this conference, who addressed the effects of extractivism on biodiversity in this and other territories. In this context, the ecologist explained that the impact on species, air pollution and human health are some of the problems associated with mining, and that 34% of the world's mining activity is concentrated in South America. The conversation was also attended by Yimmy Zuleta, a resident of El Toro in the fourth region, who referred to the effects of mining on the daily life of its inhabitants and aspects such as the displacement of communities as a result of these activities, in nearby areas such as Andacollo.

The third day, dedicated to the “Prospects for the protection of the Elqui Valley”, was attended by Francisco Squeo, a researcher at the IEB, CEAZA and the University of La Serena. The ecologist showed the protection work that is being carried out in the upper area of ​​the Paihuano commune, above 2,000 meters, where the “Estero Derecho” nature sanctuary is located, an area of ​​extremely rich biodiversity, high cultural value and that seeks to become a Biosphere Reserve.

The scientist highlighted the efforts made for twenty years in the Coquimbo Region, a territory that has the greatest plant diversity in Chile and great endemism (53.5%).

Also participating in this activity were Juan Vargas and José Canihuante, residents of the community, who shared their knowledge and experience.

Athene cunicularia in Valle del Elqui |
Contribution of Milen Duarte

The last forum of the cycle was held on August 4, with the discussion: "From the sky to the ground: light pollution and usurpation of water", two areas that also concern the community of Elqui. This conference was led by Pedro Sanhueza (OPCC) and Henry Saldaño (Regional Union for the Peasant and Indigenous Culture of Atacama).

After the conference, Milen Duarte highlighted the importance of these interactions and the linking of formal science with people, as a basis for the generation of alliances and protection figures that help safeguard the territory, its biodiversity, and the good live off its inhabitants.


Source: ieb-chile.cl