Guanacos and people in Patagonia: A Social-Ecological approach to a relationship of conflicts and opportunities
Springer Nature
Año: 2022 p. 242
The history of the conservation and use of the guanaco in Patagonia is as old as its first inhabitants. In order to understand the drama of the conservation of this species, it is necessary to weave together zooarchaeological, anthropological, physiological, wildlife management, veterinary and ecological knowledge. As in other social-ecological systems, neither the ecological system, nor the social system can be adequately understood without understanding the linkages between the two, and that they function together (Berkes and Folke 1998). In this book we propose a holistic multidisciplinary approach to understand the history of the species in Patagonia, as well as to solve the growing complex challenges associated with its conservation and sustainable use.South American wild camelids in general, and the guanaco in particular, have received relatively little interest in the world´s scientific literature. This may be due to its geographical range, which is restricted to the Andean and steppe zones of South America, with a strong population concentration in the Patagonian region. However, in the last three decades, scientific interest in this species has increased, mainly due to the possibility of using some of its populations to obtain fibre and meat, which has opened up a new area of research. In: “Guanacos and People in Patagonia: A Social-ecological Approach to a Relationship of Conflicts and Opportunities”, we have compiled updated information and presented unpublished data on the relationship between one of the most representative species of Patagonian fauna, the guanaco, and human society, and how this relationship has changed over time due to different land uses and productive interests. This book provides information to understand these interactions, in order to contextualize the current situation of this species and, in some cases, to propose possible solutions to conflicts and show ongoing activities aimed at sustainable use and conservation.The chapters of this book are written for a wide audience, without losing scientific rigour, be it researchers, postgraduate students, policy makers and professionals in conservation and rural development. They are also intended as a tool for enforcement authorities and field technicians on the use and conservation of wildlife, helping to define management actions for this species. Most of the authors are members of IUCN South American Camelid Specialist Group (IUCN - SSC - GECS). The book is organized into 9 chapters, the first of which provides a taxonomic description of the group and establishes an overview of the conservation status of guanaco populations throughout its range. In addition, the main threats to the conservation of this species in Patagonia are developed in detail, focusing on economic activities linked to livestock farming and oil and mineral extraction.Chapter 2 provides an introductory and descriptive account of how the native peoples of Patagonia interacted with wildlife, and specifically with the guanaco. This species, of social importance in the indigenous world of the region, was crucial as a source of food and for clothing and shelter. It also shows how the Patagonian landscapes have undergone socio-territorial transformations over the last 200 years that have compromised and modified the domestic modes of reproduction of these human groups and, therefore, also the use of the guanaco. For this reason, both zooarchaeological and socio anthropological perspectives are incorporated in order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the historical process.The guanaco has been perceived historically by ranchers as a competitor of cattle for available forage and as a cause of pasture degradation that decreased the receptivity of pastures and thus became a threat to livestock production. Based on these assumptions, on which there is no scientific-technical consensus, management actions were implemented to reduce the number of guanacos on ranches, and more recently, changes in public policies related to guanaco management were promoted. In Chapter 3, these assumptions are tested through a review and synthesis of the evidence (direct and indirect) accumulated to date on the potential for competition between guanacos and cattle for forage resources and the relative impact of each herbivore group on Patagonian grasslands. In addition, aspects related to foraging behaviour, diet and habitat overlap and the relationship of herbivores with vegetation in exclusive and mixed grazing situations are analysed.Wildlife health is an increasingly important component of wildlife conservation. With human-induced global change, including loss and degradation of biodiversity and habitat, wildlife is constantly subject to stress factors that expose them to an increasing risk of disease. Chapter 4 provides the first systematic review of available information on guanaco health in the Patagonian region. This information is compiled and analysed in the context of its relevance for conservation and the main threats to the species. In addition, the influence of natural and anthropogenic factors on the presence and variability of pathogens is discussed and their possible impact on guanaco resilience, management and sustainable use is analysed.Predator-prey interactions involving large predators and their ungulate prey have been postulated to strongly influence ecological patterns and processes in communities and ecosystems. The intensity of these effects appears to be greater in arid environments with simple food webs. Pumas (Puma concolor) and guanacos have coexisted in South America for at least 1 million years. However, little is known about how they interact and whether the effects of this interaction carry over to other trophic levels. Chapter 5 reviews and synthesizes data on puma-guanaco interactions, as well as other key aspects of guanaco ecology. This information is then framed within food web theory to argue that puma predation on guanaco can trigger a trophic cascade with possible direct and indirect effects on vegetation, meso-predators, scavengers and nutrient dynamics. Finally, a research programme that could be implemented to test these theories on the influence of puma-guanaco interaction on communities and ecosystems is described. It is concluded that critical ecological mechanisms, such as predator-prey interactions involving large mammalian predators and their ungulate prey, will be conserved only if these mechanisms are explicitly recognised.In southern Patagonian Argentina, the conflict between guanaco conservation and sheep farming has increased in recent years due to stochastic and socio-economic factors. Chapter 6 analyses the changes in international and national public policies related to guanaco conservation and management in Argentina and their relationship with the growing conflict between the sheep farming sector and the guanaco. It presents the complex map of actors involved in regulating the use of wild guanacos, the main milestones in this process and the most important drivers that influenced the development of public policies associated with the use and conservation of the species. In addition, international policies regarding guanacos are compared with those for vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna) and recommendations are made to improve the current situation.The guanaco was recognised by FAO as a key species for rural development in Latin America, due to its economic value, the demand for its products and the potential to generate jobs. The use of this wild camelid, considered an herbivore with low environmental impact, has the potential to play a fundamental role in halting desertification processes in arid Patagonian ecosystems, and to provide an economic alternative for local producers. Chapter 7 summarizes the results of the research that served as the scientific basis for the elaboration of provincial and national regulations governing guanaco management in Argentina. Given the different possibilities of use established in the National Management Plan for this species, the economic contexts for the use of guanacos in the wild and in captivity are analyzed and compared. It also presents the challenges that this activity still presents in the commercialisation of its products. Finally, it is discussed whether the actions carried out since the elaboration of the National Guanaco Management Plan (2006) to date can be considered to have fulfilled the criteria of adaptive management.In order to provide a comprehensive overview of the status of wild guanaco populations in the region, Chapter 8 compiles, summarises and analyses previously reported information, strengthened with unpublished data, including current studies, which allow a better understanding of the historical and current context of this species in Chilean Patagonia. This information is complemented with biological and ecological data ranging from social structure and behaviour to population dynamics and genetics. Finally, Chapter 9 summarizes some of the findings with policy impact mentioned along the book and draws lessons and opportunities for the conservation and sustainable use of the guanacos in Patagonia.The topics covered in this book are developed by researchers with extensive experience in zooarchaeological, ecological, physiological and ethological studies, as well as in the management and conservation of this emblematic species of the Patagonian arid environments.We thank the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET) for financial and institutional support. Each chapter of the book has been peer reviewed by at least one reviewer and the editors. We thank the reviewers that took the time to provide helpful feedback (all in alphabetical order): Larry Andrade, Fikret Berkes, Steven Buskirk, María Laura Guichón, Laura Estefanía, Warren Johnson, Gisela Marcoppido, Carl Mundt, Morty Ortega, Diego Rindel, Mauricio Soto Gamboa, Alma Tozzini, Bibiana Vila, and Mike Wisdom.It is almost impossible to work on guanacos and not feel passionate about them. We hope to inspire you with our enthusiasm and that of the authors. March 28th, 2022The EditorsPablo Carmanchahi and Gabriela Lichtenstein