In southern Chile, Arauco’s Oncol Park safeguards one of the last bits of the Valdivian Coastal Rainforest, which has the greatest biological diversity amongst all temperate forests in South America. With 2.481 hectares, it is home to 90 species of animals and 89 plant species (many of them endemic), and is surrounded by archaeological hotspots. Add to that a panoramic view of beaches, valleys, snow-capped Andes mountains and famous Chilean volcanoes – and you’ll get a world-class touristic haven.
Forest managers at Oncol have used the innovative FSC Ecosystem Services Procedure to demonstrate and communicate about the positive impact of responsible forest management on specific ecosystem services. FSC certificate holders can use this 7-step global approach to show how their responsible forest management activities help preserve (or restore) ecosystem services in forest sites. A certification body independently evaluates the positive impacts, which, once verified, result in a so-called “ecosystem service claim”. That claim can then be used for promotional and communications purposes.
This was the case for the evaluation of Oncol – performed by Soil Association Certification in August 2019 – which showed the results of Arauco’s promotion of eco-tourism. After comparing present and past data with specific outcome indicators, the company successfully demonstrated positive impacts in three distinct categories. First, Arauco increased the conservation of important recreational areas by expanding the park’s surface area from 754 ha in 2011 to 2,509 ha in 2018. They also dramatically reduced tourist infractions, accidents and non-permitted activities. Second, managers could prove park visits had increased from 12 to 18 thousand annual guests – and that they enhanced visitor experience by adding new cafeterias, lodging, hiking trails, canopy circuits, viewpoints and others. Third, monitoring techniques used by scientists showed an increase in the number of key species observed between 2013 and 2019, such as the Puma Concolor and the Great Andean Fox.
These protected ecosystem services have also become quite crucial for the local community around the park, as it depends on activities related to eco-tourism such as food and handicraft sales, camping rental, guide services, transportation, etc. The forest also provides wood and non-timber forest products  for local and native populations, such as the Punucapa Artesan Collective group. National and international universities are other direct beneficiaries of these ecosystem services, as they have partnerships with Arauco for scientific studies in Oncol Park . Schools and youth programs also use the park for educational purposes.
There are still important challenges to overcome and ways to move forward, but one thing is clear: verified positive impacts on ecosystem services (ES) truly amplify the recognition of Arauco’s environmental impacts on Parque Oncol.
The ES procedure, which came into effect in 2018, gives forest owners like these the adequate tools to communicate positive impacts of their operations.
FSC has other certified sites all over the world and recently celebrated its 23rd successfully verified ecosystem service claim.
If you are a forest manager or potential sponsor interested in this topic, please visit https://fsc.org/en/page/ecosystem-services and find out how to get involved!
 CODEFF (Comité nacional pro-defensa de la flor ay fauna). 2003. Diversidad Biológica del Área Costera protegida Punta Curiñanco. Valdivia, Chile. 62 p.
 A list of different studies can be found here.