This program achieved none of its goals:
A multi-decade state program to subsidize tree planting in one of South America’s wealthiest nations led to a loss of biodiversity and did little to increase the forests’ capacity to capture greenhouse gases.This has happened time and time again: Attempts to enlist the profit motives to achieve a public good generate profits, but little in the way of public good.
Chile’s plantation forests more than doubled between 1986 and 2011, while native forests shrunk by 13%, according to a new report by U.S. and Chilean academics. The country subsidized tree planting while its forestry sector boomed over that period.
Yet the environmental benefits are not as clear. Subsidies accelerated biodiversity losses in Chile as plantations often focus on one or two profitable tree species, the report said. While forest area expanded by more than 100% between 1986 and 2011, the carbon stored in vegetation increased by just 1.98% during that period.
“Our simulations indicate that plantation subsidies accelerated biodiversity losses in Chile by encouraging the expansion of plantations into more biodiverse forests,” researchers said in the paper published inNature Susainability on Monday. Chile’s case “provides several cautionary lessons,” according to Robert Heilmayr at the University of California Santa Barbara, Cristian Echeverria at Universidad de Concepcion in Chile and Eric F. Lambin at Stanford University.
The title is taken from Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman's comment in the appendix that he authored for the report on the space shuttle Challenger destruction:
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.