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Human intervention and large populated centers have historically deteriorated the dry coastland areas of central Chile. Forests and shrublands have been decimated by 200 years of land conversion, logging, land appropriation, invasive species, and forest fires. Thankfully, an area within this landscape is an exception to this context. Containing 4.272 ha of native forest and other successional vegetation growth, the area is managed by wine producer Concha y Toro, which has fought all odds to conserve their forests’ critical ecosystem services. To crown this achievement, they were certified through the FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure for those positive impacts.
The FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure consists of seven steps. Each step helps forest managers show positive impacts of their forest practices on ecosystem services. Once an independent certification body evaluates the process, each verified impact results in an Ecosystem Services Claim. Forest managers and their sponsors can then use this claim for promotion and communication.
Concha y Toro’s certification, approved in May 2020, is the result of a long process of estimation of the impacts of their conservation efforts, such as an inventory of flora and fauna, where they learnt about the biological wealth held within their lands. This first certification verified the impacts of their forest management on carbon stocks, and additional verifications such as biodiversity and watershed conservation are also planned, so to solidify their efforts to protect native species, including two classified as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List: The Chilean helmeted bullfrog (Calyptocephalella gayi) and the Kodkod (Leopardus guigna), both threatened by habitat loss and hunting.
Concha y Toro’s conservation philosophy can be traced back to 2004, when agricultural manager and one of the owners of Viña Concha y Toro, Andrés Larraín realized by observation in the fields that the proximity of forests increased the long-term health of vineyards and the availability of water, improving the protection of the valley. In addition, the mosaic of forests and vineyards beautified the landscape dominated by monoculture and benefitted the surrounding communities.
This realization prompted the company to invest in the conservation of the native forests contained in their properties. After a partnership with the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) and assessments by experts, Concha y Toro saw the need to establish a long-term strategy to manage these native forests appropriately. This led them to consider certifying their ecosystem services with FSC, to leverage resources to invest in their conservation objectives.
With clear guidelines, Concha y Toro identified priority areas to maximize ecological benefits and the synergies between forests and vineyards. This led to the restoration of a thousand hectares in 10 years, and the maintenance / improvement of another 3,272 ha. The total protected land today has reached 4,272 ha in the Central Region of Chile.
Through the Ecosystem Services Procedure, carbon indicators were seen as the most straightforward and concrete way to measure this development. The verification process concluded that, since 2013, forest carbon stocks increased by 21.072,8 tCO2 in shrublands (1,282 ha) and 23.738,4 tCO2 in native forests (2,638 ha), leading to a total carbon stock in 2019 of 290,535 tCO2 present in the forests owned by the organization.
The Ecosystem Services Procedure became an important mark in Concha y Toro’s 17-year long environmental track record. As a credible tool for communicating impacts and showing their commitments to stakeholders, partners and consumers, the verification helped them to become a Certified B Corporation – one of the highest social and environmental standards, proving their solid commitment with nature.
According to Regina Massai, executive director at FSC Chile, “This showcases an example of a company that is extremely active in preserving and restoring forests they own, but is not necessarily managing them for harvesting purposes. The Ecosystem Services Procedure makes it possible to include and certify these relevant change-makers. There are many more out there who can get inspired by their endeavors and follow similar paths.”
Concha y Toro proves that forest conservation and landscape restoration can go hand in hand with production, and that nature-based solutions can serve the long-term economic well-being and longevity of companies, as well as communities that depend on such ecosystems.
FSC certifies ecosystem service sites all over the world. It recently achieved its 70th successfully issued ecosystem service claim.
If you are a potential sponsor or partner interested in this initiative, please contact Regina Massai (FSC Chile) at firstname.lastname@example.org, Valentina Lira (Sustainability Manager – Concha y Toro) at email@example.com or visit the ecosystem services webpage to find out how to get involved.