Daniela Marini, MFS

2011 Compton Fellow in Argentina, Chile

The Political Ecology of Fire in the Andean-Patagonian Region of Argentina and Chile


In the context of global change, there is an increasing urgency for a comprehensive understanding of the wildfire dynamics and the effects of carbon emissions on warming.In Chile, more than 50,000 hectares of land were burned each year between 1989 and 1994, and in Argentina fires increased in number and size from 1997 to 2000. Pine plantationsappear to be creating either increased hazard of fire spread or increased probability of ignitionin the region. During this summer I collected data of fire events since 1985, existing pine plantations in Chubut province and I conducted 60 open-ended interviews with farmers, policy makers, scientists and managers aimed at disentangling the problem of forest fires in Patagonia. 97% of forest fires are acknowledged to be anthropogenic. The official causes of fire reported in provincial statistics clearly dissent from the causes declared by farmers. Scientists studying the ecology of fire in the region admit having an ecological bias and have no interest in examining fire causes. Amidst this lack of agreement, every fire season a vast proportion of the provincial budget is being spent on extinguishing fires without tackling its underlying causes. National and provincial laws promoting pine plantation for wood production and carbon sequestration are converting the steppe into areas of continuous fuels. There are currently 18,000 hectares planted with exotic conifers in Chubut province, and a potential surface to be planted of 350,000 hectares. Only 30% of the current plantations are properly managed, resulting in an increased fire hazard. In my forthcoming data analysis I expect to identify weaknesses and strengths in current fire management and plantation promotion policies, redefine the problematic of forest fires bringing into the discussion the whole range of actors identified and propose alternative ways of managing fire and plantations in this region.


The Political Ecology of Fire in the Andean-Patagonian Region of Argentina