The Chilean Espinal: Restoration for a Sustainable Silvopastoral System


Address correspondence to M. Root-Bernstein, email


The mediterranean habitats of central Chile are rich in endemic species, but threatened by land-use changes. In this context, we suggest that restoration of the traditional espinal silvopastoral system could improve its sustainability and conservation value. Past research on the espinal embraced negative stereotypes of peasants, the tree Acacia caven, and the semiarid landscape to recommend abandoning the silvopastoral system. We think that recommendation is premature and ignores the value of the espinal as a classical Chilean cultural landscape. Drawing on lessons from silvopastoral systems in Latin America and the Mediterranean, here we suggest several management interventions and incentives that could be developed to restore the espinal. Particular challenges in espinal include low biomass production due to the semiarid climate and the lack of a traditional sustainable timber or non-timber product of A. caven. Our recommendations include sustainable production and use of biochar and bark extracts from A. caven to improve espinal soils, the promotion of shrubs and the use of small mammal disturbances, and their artificial analogs to improve A. caven reproduction, and rotational livestock herding to form mosaic landscapes. These techniques could lead to higher forage biomass and increased livestock weights. Incentive structures to implement these management activities could include tax benefits for private protected area (IUCN category VI) creation, REDD+ and PES programs, along with promotion of the cultural value of the espinal. Further research is urgently called for on ecosystem services, ecological baselines, biochar, and other management and incentive structures that could be applied in the espinal.