On-line version ISSN 1667-782X
PARUELO, José M et al. Conceptual and Methodological Elements for Cumulative Environmental Effects Assessment (CEEA) in Subtropical Forests: The Case of Eastern Salta, Argentina. Ecol. austral [online]. 2011, vol.21, n.2, pp. 163-178. ISSN 1667-782X.
Northern Argentina experienced an unprecedented deforestation rate of xerophitic forests as a consequence of agricultural expansion. In the Province of Salta, 26% of the forest were removed between 1977 and 2008. At the end of 2007, just before the No. 26331 Law of Native Forest Protection was voted by the Congress, the highest annual rate of deforestation was registered, reaching a value of 2.1%. Regarding this situation, indigenous people of Eastern Salta along with the "criollos" (local small ranchers) appealed to the National Supreme Court of Justice for legal protection. The Court requested the province to elaborate a Cumulative Environmental Effects Assessment (CEEA) regarding the process of logging and deforestation in four departments of Salta Province (San Martín, Rivadavia, Santa Victoria, and Orán). The aim of this work is to present a conceptual framework to conduct a CEEA in eastern Salta and to present the evidences and existing methodologies to characterize the impacts of deforestation. The conceptual framework suggested depends on the quantitative characterization of the changes in the provision level of key ecosystem services as a function of the stress and/or disturbance level (in this case deforestation). Based on the literature and our own data, the effects of deforestation on four key ecosystem services have been assessed: C dynamics, energy balance and greenhouse gases emissions, water dynamics and landscape structure. Deforestation produced emissions of 2000 t of CH4, 200 t of N2O, above 20 Gg of C/year, a 1.1 watt/m2 reduction in reflected radiation and 4400 TJ radiative energy emissions caused by deforestation fires, increases in the risk of soil salinization and landscape fragmentation. Considering these aspects of the structure and functioning of the ecosystems provides objective elements to evaluate management alternatives and to elaborate monitoring programmes. To consider such management and monitoring alternatives arises technical challenges but also institutional and political ones.
Keywords : Deforestation; Evapotranspiration; Landscape fragmentation; Carbon gains; Greenhouse gases; Land use change.