In Argentina, many native forests are degraded, as in the rest of the world. An example is the coastal forests of Buenos Aires, now on the verge of extinction. A multi-institutional project is using citizen science to try to recover them.
Many of the world’s forest ecosystems are being degraded by fires, land clearing, city growth, and invasions of exotic trees, among other causes.
In our country, the clear-cut forests — or celtis slaughteran emblematic native tree of the Pampean region – extended along the coastal areas of Mar del Plata to almost the border with Santa Fe.
Today, only remnants of these logs remain. A joint initiative of several institutions, including the UBA Faculty of Agronomy (FAUBA), uses citizen science to carry out the Restaura project, which aims to recover native forests in general, and logging in particular .
“Currently, many of our native forest ecosystems are degraded. The threats are diverse, such as fires, deforestation and invasions of exotic plant species.
For this reason, at this point it is not enough to keep them, we must start working actively on their recovery.said Mariela Lacoretz, a professor at UBA’s Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences (FCEN).
In this sense, Lacoretz pointed out that our country has several national and international commitments to fulfill in terms of conservation and restoration of degraded ecosystems, such as the 20×20 Initiative, Law 26,331 on minimum budgets for environmental protection indigenous forests, the National Plan for the Restoration of Indigenous Forests and the Provincial Indigenous Plan of Buenos Aires. These commitments highlight the need for restoration initiatives.
“JTogether with other colleagues, we launched Restaura, a project that aims to promote the restoration of native forests. And since we believe that for this it is essential to integrate society in general, we use citizen science.
Our first action was to uproot a typical tree of the Pampean region, a source of food and refuge for a large part of the fauna, whose forests show a high level of degradation.said Lacoretz, also a CONICET scholarship holder based at the IEGEBA institute (FCEN).
befriend the slaughter
“In the province of Buenos Aires, logging has formed forests called ‘talares’, which are now threatened by cattle ranching, timber extraction, the invasion of exotic species and advances in urbanization. Where the larger cities of Buenos Aires have grown, logging has all but disappeared.
They are even absent from the collective imagination: few people know what slaughter is or has been,” comments Natalia Rodríguez, professor of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry (FAUBA).
“The idea behind our appellation ‘Tu Tala Amigo’ is to determine the optimal date for harvesting the fruits of this species. To generate this information, we ask people to find the nearest felling and, in our application, to give it a name, upload the geographical location, upload a photo of the tree and indicate what stage of development it is in: if it has flowers, if it is closed or open, or if the fruits are ripe or immature. To unify the criteria, in the application there are photos that help to define the stages. It will have to be done from time to time, when I pass“, explained the professor.
According to Rodríguez, detecting the start date of fruiting will be essential for restoration because it will allow the seeds to be harvested at the right time. This date will depend on where each tree is located, and for this reason the call aims to cover different areas where the cuts are distributed.
Science for native forests, an app… and after?
Lacoretz pointed out:The information we generate will be useful to native plant nurseries such as those that make up the REVINA network, which can then produce a large enough number of seedlings to replenish many fellings if necessary. We are confident this will make restoration projects more feasible”.
Returning to clearcut forests in good condition will require the germination of a large number of seeds that may come from different geographical locations, which influences the restoration strategy.
“It is strongly recommended to take care of the local genetics, and for this reason it is necessary to know where the slaughter specimens are and when to collect the fruits and seeds in places close to where we will collect more late these little trees.”.
Lacoretz noted that forest stands are often so degraded that it is difficult to find seed companies. Sometimes they are even so invaded by other species that there are no more fellings. For the teacher, these situations lead to making decisions with the information, the tools and above all the time at his disposal. In this context, citizen science is a means of accelerating the pace of restoration.
Another way to investigate
According to Natalia Rodríguez, three great advantages of citizen science are that it allows to generate information immediately, that it has a very wide scope in terms of data collection and that it allows to connect sources of different forms of knowledge .
“Two weeks after the launch of the call, we already had nearly 100 logs loaded in our application, something we did not imagine a priori”.
“We are opening up to a new way of doing science, which is becoming more and more widespread,” Natalia pointed out. The company has a lot of knowledge and it is good to capitalize on it. By participating, people appropriate this knowledge, which allows the initiative to gain legitimacy”.
Finally, teacher FAUBA indicated that the call ‘Tu Tala Amigo’ is open and people can join through the page the Web or from the project’s Instagram by completing a simple registration. Then Restaura will send each person the data to enter the apps. It is not necessary to use the mobile phone, you can participate via the site.