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					                           UPM Forestal Oriental – Case Study

    CONSERVATION OF URUGUAYAN PALM SAVANNAS IN WESTERN URUGUAY

Name and place:

UPM Forestal Oriental owns around 200,000 hectares of former agriculture land in
Western Uruguay. Around 60% of this area is available for plantations, while
approximately 32% of the lands are left unplanted consisting of grasslands or savannas,
native forests, waterways, wetlands and corridors. The remaining 8% is classified as
infrastructure. UPM Forestal Oriental plants Eucalyptus and supplies around 4 million m3
of wood per year to the UPM pulp mill in Fray Bentos, Uruguay.

Land Use and High Conservation Values:

The lands owned by UPM Forestal Oriental were previously used for agriculture,
primarily grazing and crops. In Uruguay, land continues to be dominated by agricultural
use however since 1990, the area of plantations have begun to increase across the
country. Of the 17 million hectares of land in Uruguay, approximately 85% is used for
agriculture, 5.3% is occupied by forest plantations, and 5.4% is native forest. The
conservation of native tree species in Uruguay is a priority and is crucial in maintaining
biological diversity and ecological integrity. Laws in Uruguay require land owners to
protect native forest.

This case study will focus on conservation initiatives for the palm tree Butia yatay (Mart.)
Becc which is a native species of high conservation value (HCV) in Uruguay. The Yatay
palm is of conservation value throughout the Uruguayan savanna eco-region which
includes the south of Brazil, Uruguay, and northeast Argentina. The Yatay palm is
endemic palm in this eco-region. The Yatay can be found in palm savannas scattered
across the eco-region however the largest concentrations are found along the margins of
the Uruguay River in Argentina and Uruguay. In Uruguay, Yatay palms are found
predominantly in the provinces of Paysandu (i.e. Quebracho, Chapicuy) and Rio Negro
(i.e. Porrua, Mujica).

Historically, the extension of palm savannas was much greater than the isolated patches
found today. Within its region of origin, many have disappeared as a result of intensive
grazing and deforestation for agricultural cultivation. The fruits that are produced are
edible and are used for making jams and liquor, and are eaten by numerous bird species.

Palm Tree Conservation Program:

The Yatay palm is located in several of UPM Forestal Oriental’s land holdings and is
specifically protected by Uruguayan law. The palm trees are threatened by agriculture
practices such as grazing, tillage and herbicides. Grazing animals, annual applications of
herbicide, and soil tillage suppresses the rejuvenation of young palms. However, in
comparison to grazing and annual crop production, forest plantations have longer
harvest rotations with less frequent applications of herbicide (once per 10 year rotation),
and less grazing.
UPM Forestal Oriental commissioned a study in December of 2009 with a local expert to
present management recommendations for the Yatay palms. This study covered a large
block (about 10,000 ha) that had been planted 10 years before and was showing higher
palm populations as a result of the forestry use. In addition to conservation areas, during
the study, the presence of young palms were noted amongst mature plantations, in
biological corridors and firebreaks adjacent to plantations, and within recently replanted
areas in the planting rows. It was within the commercially productive sites where
concerns were raised regarding the regeneration of young palms and the future of the
forestry use. In ten years time when these plantations are mature and ready for harvest
the palm trees will be much larger, hence UPM Forestal Oriental will face several
challenges, particularly harvesting while protecting established palms, and maintaining
existing plantation areas. This study focused on recommendations to maintain existing
plantations areas while promoting the conservation of the Butia yatay in the region.

The study was concluded with the following management recommendations;

    1. Palms located within conservation areas should be preserved
    2. Connectivity of palms should be maintained through biological corridors
    3. Adult palms within all plantations should be maintained
    4. Investigate the option to transplant young palms from recently established and
       older plantations to other areas (i.e. corridors, conservation areas),
    5. Investigate the option to develop economic activities within the neighboring
       communities (e.g. selling palm tree for landscaping).

Since the completion of the study, UPM Forestal Oriental has developed a spatial
database of Yatay palms on their lands through field reconnaissance and the use of
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and high resolution digital aerial photos. This
palm data and technology has enabled UPM Forestal Oriental to develop an ecologically
responsible spatial plantation design and palm conservation strategy that incorporates
the recommendations made by local palm expert. The plantation design ensures the
protection of adult palm tree, connectivity of palm patches through biological corridors,
and delineation of large palm conservation areas.

Conservation Benefits:

The palm conservation program that UPM Forestal Oriental has in place will provide
environmental, social, and economic benefits such as;

         Protection of a native tree species and valuable habitat type
         Maintain connectivity between isolated patches of palms to restore this native
         species and valuable habitat
         Preserve ecosystem integrity of savanna eco-regions
         Create structural diversity within plantations for the benefit of biodiversity
         Provide a source of food to the animal, bird and insect species that consume
         their fruit
         Provide opportunity for locals to continue using the fruits and enhance the
         possibility of creating economic opportunities in the communities
         Constitute an example of good forest plantation design
Business Benefits:

The palm conservation program will also impart a number of benefits to UPM Forestal
Oriental, as follows;

         Operational – taking care of the Yatay palm ensures forest management and
         harvesting can continue uninterrupted
         Regulatory & legal - adherence with the law
         Revenue generation from selling the palms, which can cover part of the costs
         allocated to conservation initiatives in the region
         Reputation – taking care of biodiversity such as the Yatay palm demonstrates
         responsible forest management to the customers and stakeholders of the mill
         Product sales and marketing - protecting this type of HCV is part of the criteria
         for FSC certification that allows us to use the FSC label on our mill products
         Business financing where financiers of new mill developments require HCV's to
         be protected as part of any funding agreement

Further Steps:

Looking forward UPM Forestal Oriental will continue to develop and implement this
conservation program and has plans to further develop stakeholder involvement by
soliciting input and participation to investigate socio-economic development options
related to the Yatay palm in rural communities.




References:

Brussa, C.A., 2009. Algunas consideraciones y recommendaciones sobre el manejo de Butia yatay (Mart.)
Becc, en establecimientos de FOSA – Paysandú. UPM Forestal Oriental, Uruguay. December 2009.

SPF. 2010. Sociedad de productores forestales del Uruguay 2010 forestacion. [Online]. Available: World
Wildlife Fund. 2001.

Terrestrial Ecosystems – Uruguayan Savanna. [Online]. http://www.spf.com.uy [May 19, 2010] Available:
[May 19, 2010]

				
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