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Universidad de Buenos Aires (2015)

Use biophysical indicators for the study of socio-environmental sustainability in the Chaco Pampeana plain

Totino, Mariana

Titre : Use biophysical indicators for the study of socio-environmental sustainability in the Chaco Pampeana plain

Utilización de indicadores biofísicos para el estudio de la sustentabilidad socioambiental en la planicie Chaco Pampeana

Auteur : Totino, Mariana

Université de soutenance : Universidad de Buenos Aires

Grade : Doctoral 2015

Argentina has been always connected with a long agricultural tradition, under the nickname "the breadbasket of the world", and with soils that are among the most fertile in the world. The first experiences in rural areas occurred around 1880 in the Pampean plains, with livestock, and from 1900, combined with agriculture. Since then, the productive activity of the Pampas has remained until today, when the soybean is the "star" crop, because of its high profitability in the international market. Very different is the story of the Chaco plain. Only in the early twentieth century the figure of cattle posts became consolidated. The large-scale exploitation of hardwood forest begins around 1960. At the same time, cotton is heavily installed in grasslands. From the 90’s soybean as dominant crop is installed, using the same model of agriculture dependent on large amounts of external inputs, "pampeanizando" the Chaco (Chapter 3). Since agriculture is a main activity and the soy area is growing, it is important to assess the contributions of the environment to the production process, because this factor is not taken into account in the calculations of yield or of economics. For this purspose, a systemic approach is used because the agroecosystems, are considered complex ecological systems, with numerous relationships and flows between people and the environment. Thus, a discussion of the role of the researcher and the paradigm within which the study is carried out, is proposed, and a theoretical framework that challenges the limitations of reductionist science is presented. (Chapter 1). The method used is framed in a Life Cycle Analysis, used to examine the total environmental impact of a product throughout all stages of production. Since the three pillars of sustainability are economic, social and environmental, the proposed framework is a limited tool because it focuses only on the environmental aspect. Within the LCA, various indicators are used. These allow us to study the system from different perspectives in order to understand what factors have the greatest impact within the process and, as far as possible, to propose ways to diminish them or the adoption of alternative steps to optimize the whole process. The selected method, which integrates several indicators, is the SUMMA (Sustainability Multi-Method Analysis). (Chapter 2). The aim of this study is to evaluate the environmental impact of the intensive soybean production process into two representative locations : one in the Chaco plain (Charata) and another in the Pampas (Rojas), which have different environmental conditions. In the first case, water is a major limiting factor ; it has a small regime of local rainfall, higher temperatures and less fertile soils. In addition it is at a much greater distance from the export point. The indicators obtained will be used compare both sites in terms of issues such as the consequences of applying an agricultural model highly dependent on inputs,, the loss of nutrients and soil structure, the environmental risk of a given production system along time, and the consequences of the "pampeanization" in environmental and socially marginalized areas, among others. Due to environmental differences and Charata conditions of "fragility", was expected that the impact of the agricultural production activity was greater in the Chaco city. Contrary to expectations the results of the methods used were quite similar in both study sites (Chapter 4). There are several reasons that could explain these results, such as the application of the model is very similar at both sites, given that the selected method does not consider the consequences of the advance of agriculture on the native ecosystem, no significant differences were observed in the impacts of the production system (Chapter 5)


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