Protecting biodiversity in Uruguay
UPM started its forestry operations in Uruguay some 25 years ago. Since the very beginning the company has systematically developed methods for maintaining biodiversity in its eucalyptus plantations.
In the first phase UPM conducted a biological survey at the beginning of the 1990s to discover and classify species in the regions where it was going to operate. Our plantations are established on degraded grasslands that is the most important type of vegetation in Uruguay. Plantations are located neither in the tropics nor rainforests,” emphases Ivan Grela, UPM Forestal Oriental’s Head of Environment. UPM is mapping and protecting native grasslands in Uruguay. All native forests are protected by law and all the species that live within them are conserved. There are no forest conversions like in most of the tropical and subtropical countries.
As a big land owner, UPM promotes voluntary-based nature conservation and protected areas that become part of UPM’s biodiversity programme all over the world. In Mafalda the size of the protected areas has been growing steadily during the last 25 years, rising from 1,000 hectares up to 1,550 hectares nowadays. In order to establish the conservation work officially UPM presented a proposal to the Environmental Ministry of Uruguay that Mafalda should be included as a part of the national system of protected areas (Sistema Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, SNAP) in Uruguay. The agreement between UPM and the Ministry was finally concluded in October 2016. “This was the very first time that a private company has managed a protected area here in Uruguay. Other industrial sectors including agriculture and cattle grazing have not adopted such initiatives. UPM remains the owner of Mafalda but it is also managing the protected areas in the region,” says Grela.
Currently UPM is developing the infrastructure of the site to allow vistors such as locals, students, authorities and experts to research and enjoy the nature of the region. “Mafalda is also an important showcase for us to demonstrate that it is possible to protect nature and run successful forest operations in the same zone. In one part of the site we are fulfilling high nature conservation values and standards while having wood production in the other part. This is an arrangement that people seem not to be very familiar with.”