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Conceptual Models for Ecosystem Management through the Participation of Local Social Actors: the Río Cruces Wetland Conflict

Luisa E. Delgado, Universidad de Chile
Víctor H Marín, Universidad de Chile
Pamela L Bachmann, Universidad de Chile
Marcela Torres-Gomez, Universidad de Chile

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In 2004, the emigration and death of black-necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) from the Río Cruces wetland (Valdivia, Chile) triggered one of the largest ecosocial conflicts in Chilean history. The main local social actors of this still unsolved conflict are the Chilean government, a pulp-mill company, and a local nongovernmental organization. The central issues of the conflict are disagreement over the reason for the swans’ migration, the need to restore the black-necked swan population in the wetland, and the relationship between economic development and wetland conservation. We applied a physical, ecological, and social system approach to generate conceptual or qualitative ecosystem models representing the perceptions of all social actors. Our results showed that each actor group perceived the ecosystem in a different and, in some cases, divergent way. Furthermore, all of them carried only partial representations of the wetland and the conflict. We linked all the models to generate an integrated view of the Río Cruces wetland ecosystem. We propose that this approach can be replicated as a tool for generating synthetic, integrated conceptual models of ecosystems, even in the presence of strong divergence and a lack of consensus among social actors.

Key words

Cygnus melancoryphus; black-necked swans; conceptual ecosystem models; conflict; social actors; wetlands
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087