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  • Community in Science: the first workshop introducing the local challenges to climate change adaptation in El Chaltén, Austral Patagonia.

    By Natali Ormazábal, El Chaltén. On a rainy Autumn Sunday in El Chaltén, there’s “pesto” outside as they call it around here. A combination of wind, rain and cold. The days shorten and it starts to get colder. It was six in the afternoon. We were in a hall in the Chaltén Suites Hotel forming part of a gathering between local neighbours and an investigative scientist and glacier lover, to talk about the role glaciers play for the community and its behaviour due to climate change. The French association, Boana, which has been active in Chaltén since its creation, addresses participatory water management issues, and participatory monitoring of ecosystems and investigates how mountainous areas can adapt to climate change. In this instance, they organized a workshop on “Cryospheric Sciences and Adaptation to Climate Change” with the presence of Dr. in Glaciology and Andean geomatics, currently President of the Working Group “Environmental and Infrastructure Monitoring” of Technical Commission II, of the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS): Gabriela Lenzano. An encounter at the crossroads between science, citizenship and activism. Marie Anière, co-founder of Boana, started presenting the workshop a little after 6:10 in the afternoon. There were more than 30 participants. She gave us a rundown of climate change adaptation, horizons in planification and political decisions. She introduced the concepts of vulnerability and impact. Finally, she shared 3 adaptation plans that were put to use in Europe. The objective was to make the first diagnostic of participatory vulnerability towards the community for climate change adaptation. A global challenge that involves open knowledge sharing Last July 2023 was the hottest month in the recorded history of the earth. Also, in that same year, the UN declared the "era of global boiling"; and, as Chaltén is located within a protected area, inside Los Glaciares National Park, where glaciers retreat every year, it was appropriate to generate this open dialogue. This is how a space of connection was created between the research of a glaciologist and the observations of the neighbors who live at the feet of the hanging glacier cirques in the northern part of the park, and next to the deepest lake in South America, Lake Viedma. Gabriela Lenzano travelled from Mendoza to El Chaltén invited by Boana, and thanks to the support of the IACS (International Association of Cryospheric Sciences) / IUGG, to initiate a local dialog about the necessity to adapt to climate change, emphasizing the results of the research done by IANIGLA, also member of the International Association of Cryospheric Sciences, on the behavior of the Upsala, Perito Moreno and Viedma Glaciers. “Los glaciares son termómetros de sensibilidad al cambio climático”, mencionó la investigadora, fuerte y claro, y la sala escuchaba en total silencio. Los mismos cumplen un rol de identidad para quienes habitan la región de El Chaltén, y a su vez desempeñan un papel fundamental como testigos de las condiciones medioambientales pasadas, presentes y futuras. Esta sensibilidad a los cambios ambientales está condicionada principalmente como consecuencia del cambio climático, agregaba. “The glaciers are climate change sensibility thermometers”, mentioned the researcher, loud and clear, and the room listened in complete silence. The glaciers fulfil a role of identity for those who inhabit the Chaltén region and in turn, play a fundamental part as witnesses of past, present and future environmental conditions. This sensibility towards environmental changes is primarily a consequence of climate change, she added. By the end of the XXI century, half of the world’s mountainous glaciers will have disappeared, if we reach a temperature increase of 1.5ºC. The medium sea level will keep rising due to the contribution made by melting glaciers and this tendency has accelerated twice as much as in the XX century. The impact done to some ecosystems is near irreversible, she later commented. An interesting and alarming instance was upon us when we were shown two time-lapse photo sequences (here above) of cameras installed on the Viedma and Perito Moreno Glaciers, in which one could observe the movement and oscillations of both glaciers. The more alarming one being the strong frontal regression of the Viedma Glacier, registered between the years 2014 and 2016, where one can see the great mass of ice that was detached. Hence, the interaction between the glacier and the water considerably accelerates its regression. The Perito Moreno Glacier, for 100 years oscillated, advanced and retreated; it is currently weakened in its margins and also suffers from climatic vulnerability. The Viedma Glacier, is a large ice mass that has experienced from 2014 to date a loss of 5.5 km2 of ice surface with a frontal retreat of approximately 2 km, and whose lake depth near the glacier front is 900 m. Frontal velocities of 3.5 m per day have been recorded. Thus, among those present we imagine the fjord that would be exposed when the glacier in question continues to retreat. Something far and hard to imagine but it is there, happening little by little. Among the data shared by Gabriela, it is shown that between 1978-2018 there was a loss of ice in 28 glaciers that make up the Glacier National Park of -1.44 ± 0.15 m a-1 w. e. According to future scenarios, if greenhouse gas emissions are severely reduced by the year 2100, even so 20% of the glaciers would disappear in Southern Patagonia, therefore, ecosystems will evidently change. At the moment, there are no future projections for the region. “Given such a scenario of uncertainty, which slopes are more susceptible or prone to landslides?” She invited us to ask ourselves. The imminent destiny of glacial tourism The modification of the landscape due to climate change increases the vulnerability of existing ecosystems and that of the stationary and transitory population. It was in this framework that the concept of “Glacial Tourism” and its imminent destiny was discussed. The development of glacial tourism in El Chaltén and El Calafate, which are the regional settlements that develop tourism as the base for their economy, must transform into a social player taking part in moving towards adaptation. The importance of communal knowledge in the construction of climate change vulnerability analysis. Gabriela highlighted that the views of the communities towards environmental and social issues, their level of organization and participation and the type of activities they carry out in conjunction with the protected area, is very important. It was then that the project named “Donde Nacen Las Aguas (DNLA)” (Where the Waters Are Born), was mentioned, which combines science, management and communal participation to develop new conservation practices for the Austral Patagonian aquatic ecosystems. Within the practices that could be carried out, Marie highlighted the importance in forming and consolidating workshops to develop a local management system to help integrate the results of monitoring physical and social systems through community spaces. An integration of science, management and community would be very fruitful. At the end of the exposition, some participants voiced concerns about the depth of the Viedma Glacier and its flotation; of the rising water levels and how it affects the flow of rivers. Some mountain guides shared images taken by them showing an abrupt change to the left margin of the Viedma Glacier. It’s something we all see, that can be seen by those of us who go to these places every year, they said; lagoons that form on the sides of the glaciers and deposit water over them, accelerating the regression. Some suggestions were made, linked to the above, that proposed that in the framework of “participatory sciences” a collaborative platform could be made with images taken by park attendees. At the end of the gathering, a neighbour raised his hand and asked, looking at Gabriela: “What do you, the researchers, require from the community to carry out your work?” These concerns and their participation demonstrate the interest and love the inhabitants of El Chaltén have towards contributing to taking care of the glaciers, their home; a fact that generates good expectations in interactions for adaptation that could happen going forward. A tourist was there with her sons, two boys. She stepped forward before she left, thanked the presentation and highlighted the importance of these spaces for future generations. It was a beautiful gesture that contributed to the harmonious ambience of the day. After 9 p.m. the workshop ended, the pesto continued outside. That necessary combination of wind, rain and cold is necessary for the remaining glaciers to continue to exist.

  • We welcome Gabriela Lenzano, glaciologist at IANIGLA, to exchange views between science and mountain users on the local evolution of glaciers linked to climate change.

    For the end of the tourist season in our beautiful town, we welcome Gabriela Lenzano, glaciologist from IANIGLA, with the support of IACS (International Association of Cryospheric Sciences). We invite the community to participate in the talk on Sunday, April 7, at 7 pm at Chaltén Suites How can scientific data be used for the application of knowledge by mountain users? How can mountain users' observations and scientific modeling interact? How are mountaineering practices evolving in the face of new global climate challenges? These are some of the questions that we will ask ourselves in the company of Gabriela Lenzano and under the moderation of Marie Anière Martinez, president of the Boana association. Program: WORKSHOP 1 Dialogues between science and community: In this participatory workshop, we will identify opportunities for adaptation to climate change in the Northern Zone of the Park. In the first part of the workshop, we will review good adaptation practices and illustrate them with examples. In the second part, we will hold roundtable discussions with the participants on the central themes of climate change adaptation. Post-glacial ecosystems and meltwater: what are landscapes like with annual discharges of 10 gigatons? Landslide risks in the Northern Zone: comparison of landslide maps of the Northern Zone with field observations. Tourism economics and climate change adaptation: challenges of diversification, slow tourism and local planning. WORKSHOP 2 In this second workshop, we will share perceptions, observations and emotions, as drivers of ecological action. We will also highlight the important role of women in the community as leaders of environmental preservation initiatives. We will open the dialogue to invited community members to discuss environmental leadership and collective proposals. About researcher Gabriela Lenzano : Dr. M. Gabriela Lenzano has more than 18 years of experience in interdisciplinary research in the field of glaciology based on geospatial science and information technology. She is currently in charge of the Laboratory of Andean Geomatics (LAGEAN) and Adjunct Researcher at the Argentine Institute of Nivology, Glaciology and Environmental Sciences (IANIGLA) of the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET, Argentina). Her career has been focused on glacier dynamics in Southern Patagonia and Central Andes through the detection of changes using remote sensing data mining techniques. She is currently chair of Working Group 8 "Environmental and Infrastructure Monitoring" of the Technical Commission II of the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS).

  • We're looking for a trainee!

    Are you looking for a formative experience and also looking to get involved in an association? Are you interested in international cooperation to promote social and environmental justice? Then why not join us for a 2-month work placement in partnership research and communications? Reporting to the co-founder and working directly with the other members of the Boana office, the intern will be involved in developing projects by seeking out partnership opportunities and opportunities for calls for projects and supporting the production of annual communication materials on the results and impact of projects. Further details on the internship assignment can be found in the internship offer, which can be downloaded here : Deadline for receipt of applications: 30 April 2024. To apply, please complete this questionnaire and send your CV to the following address with "Internship application - NAME First Name" in the subject line

  • Sanitary alert in El Chaltén : the community mobilizes to protect environment and health

    The inhabitants of El Chaltén, local environmental associations, health center professionals and CONICET researchers are warning about the environmental consequences of tourism overload. In this small Patagonian town nestled in Los Glaciares National Park, at the foot of the most famous peaks in the world, the community warns about water contamination and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria caused by poor wastewater management by the state-owned company SPSE. El Chaltén is experiencing stresses and challenges as tourism develops faster than its basic infrastructure can be upgraded. This small town in southern Argentine Patagonia, with its unique view of Mount Fitz Roy, is one of the world's largest freshwater reserves and a rapidly growing tourist destination. El Chaltén is located in Los Glaciares National Park and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981 for its spectacular beauty, its glaciological and geomorphological importance and its endangered local fauna. One of the most burning issues facing El Chaltén is the critical state of its wastewater treatment plant. The plant's capacity has reached its limit and, in 2022, just before the start of the summer tourist season, untreated waste discharges were recorded in the rivers bordering the town. This situation poses a serious threat to public health and the integrity of the region's surface water bodies. El Chaltén is at the crossroads between the promotion of sustainable tourism and the need to ensure environmental conservation. El Chaltén has about 3,000 inhabitants and receives more than 10,000 tourists per day in high season*. Residents, health personnel, local associations and local researchers are concerned about the total lack of control over the contamination of the Fitz Roy and Río de las Vueltas rivers. The health alert issued by doctors of the local health center warns of the presence of E.coli bacteria and multiresistant to antibiotics bacteria downstream of the sewage treatment plant. The research project entitled "Study of bacterial resistance to antibiotics in Argentine wetlands", developed by Soledad Domínguez and Soledad Esquius, researchers from the National University of Mar del Plata, reveals the development of these antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the aquatic ecosystems of the protected area. Indications of the presence of E.coli bacteria strains show resistance patterns similar to those found in rivers heavily impacted by human presence, such as rivers bordered by industries like La Plata and Luján. Bacteria detected in the water at the confluence of rivers represent a danger of infectious disease development, a risk to both human health and biodiversity. Today, international tourists visiting the site are not informed of local issues, because there is a desire to preserve the reputation of the site. The French are the most represented nationality in the Northern Zone of Les Glaciers National Park, with 20% of visitors in 2019**. Residents take legal action in the hope that authorities will take action The community of El Chaltén, concerned about the critical environmental situation resulting from the poor condition of its wastewater treatment plant, has filed an environmental lawsuit against Servicios Públicos Sociedad del Estado, the public company of the Province of Santa Cruz in charge of the treatment plant. The legal action demands the immediate, urgent and definitive cessation, restoration and repair of the environmental damage to the Fitz Roy and Vueltas rivers, located in Los Glaciares National Park. But this was only possible thanks to an outstanding alliance of women at the forefront of this denunciation campaign. First of all, the women researchers who played an essential role in setting up a program to monitor the waters of the protected area; then the Park's conservation officers, the women doctors, the Boana volunteers, the women lawyers, the neighbors. All of them use their means and resources to take care of their community and their environment. The current national political context increases the uncertainty surrounding the management of this public health problem. The defense of environmental rights and transparent water management are at risk in the face of threats to dismantle the Ministries of the Environment and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET) by the newly elected government. Likewise, the new head of government advocates the privatization of rivers, despite the fact that Argentina has more than 8,484 km² of glaciers and one of the world's largest reserves of fresh water, essential for the planet. The denial of climate change and the open war against environmental movements feed and legitimize all incitements to discredit and harm environmental advocates in a country where nature is seen as a resource to be privatized, exploited and sold as a commodity. As a multicultural, feminist and environmentalist association, allied with research and the protection of nature as a common good of humanity, we will remain mobilized, in solidarity with citizens' movements and will continue to fight for the social and environmental rights of people, for a just world and for a habitable and preserved planet. *Based on an estimate by the National Parks Administration, which registers the number of visitors to the site on a daily basis. **Sgubini, P. (2018). Informe Indicadores de Sustentabilidad Turística de la Municipalidad de El Chaltén, Provincia de Santa Cruz.

  • Glaciers are burning - El Chaltén, Patagonia

    On January 8, 9 and 10, a hundred hectares of forest were burned in a few hours. Thanks to the work of ICE patrolmen and volunteers who have been on the field for 2 days and after the mobilization of a hydroplane, the fire has been contained. Just one year ago, the Boana team, together with Chaltén volunteers and park workers, carried out sampling at exactly this area of the Vuelta del Huemul, which is more and more frequented by tourists, to measure the signs of human impact on the park's waters. Today, this fire is a sad reminder that the ecosystems of this World Heritage Site are highly vulnerable to drought (accelerated by climate change) and human impacts related to recreational use of the park. Despite the increase in tourism in El Chaltén in recent years, we see no action to expand resources and budget for hazard prevention and response services in the National Park. The third largest freshwater reserve in the world needs resources to be protected #ArdenLosGlaciares Map: André Barbosa Tavares Source: Infrared views of 2/01/23 and 10/01/23 before and after the fire. #worldheritagesite #unesco #patagonia #incendiosforestales #iucn #forestfire #brigadistasenlucha #incendies #mountainsmatter #derechosdelanaturaleza #climatechangeadaptation #rethinkingconservation

  • What is biocultural heritage and why is it essential to adopt this perspective?

    A conceptual framework that bridges the gap between nature and culture Since the 1980s, after scientists' alerts, the authorities realized the seriousness of the situation of biodiversity loss, i.e. the sixth mass extinction of species now induced by humans. The history of these international debates on biodiversity indicates that, at the beginning, they only addressed state ownership of biological resources, and then widened under the pressure of indigenous activists and scientists, to include indigenous knowledge of nature. However, this biodiversity is thought of as a diversity of plant and animal species that have evolved on Earth, interconnected among themselves and with the ecosystems in which they live, without including human beings as part of this interconnected web. The conservation of nature is also thought from the possible utility that can benefit the capitalist and extractivist society. In the 1990s, it is thanks to advances in the field of human rights of indigenous communities, such as land rights, traditional resource rights, property rights and cultural and linguistic rights, that ecological diversities and cultural diversities are progressively related. Meanwhile, linguists and ethnologists draw attention to the rapid and dramatic extinction of languages in the world, since it is estimated that by the end of the 21st century, between 50 and 90% of the 6,900 languages currently spoken will have disappeared. Indigenous territories become of interest to the critical scientific community, who observe a relationship between environmental conservation areas and indigenous territories. These investigations show the strong correlation between areas of preserved biodiversity concentration and the presence of indigenous groups and cultural and linguistic diversities. This furthermore highlights the disconnection of western societies with their environments. Biocultural heritage, as the inter-connected biological and cultural diversity of local communities and indigenous peoples, implies the notion of collective care. Collective care also brings together a set of local ecological knowledge, as well as values and belief systems. The concept of Biocultural Heritage emerges in the academic field as a great synergy between two powerful contemporary global social movements: the vindication of original or indigenous peoples and critical environmentalism. The concept of biocultural diversity promotes a field of research that, based on the social, linguistic, and natural sciences, tries to identify the correlations and possible causal connections between these diversities, examines the social, economic and ecological dynamics that threaten them and explores the implications of loss of biocultural diversity for sustainability. Applications of the concept include the development of biocultural approaches to conservation, policy instruments to protect biocultural rights, and tools and initiatives on the ground to maintain and revitalize biocultural heritage. In practice, the most important impetus for the protection and maintenance of biocultural diversity cannot come from the authorities through top-down efforts, but from the action of indigenous and other local communities around the world. whose languages, cultural identities and lands are threatened. References and bibliographic resources: A framework for exploring and managing biocultural heritage, Johan L indholm, Anneli Ekblom Linguistic, Cultural, and Bio logical Diversity, Luisa Maffi Terralingua, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia V8K 2N6, Canada Biocultural Diversity Toolkit, Luisa Maffi and Ortixia Dilts:

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