Llanquihue is located at the south of Chile in the Los Lagos Region and is situated at the border of the Llanquihue Lake, the second biggest lake in the country, overlooking the Osorno volcano. The city has a complex hydrological system including the border of the lake, the birth of Rio Maullin and a network of freshwater wetlands. The current wetlands existing in the city are highly vulnerable to housing development and urban sprawling. The city of Llanquihue derives from a German immigration period around 1894 and it became an official commune in 1968. The lushness of the area, with its vegetation and water, prompted the a rapid development of the city associated mainly with agriculture and the related manufacturing industries. The city lies over a network of wetlands and small creeks with superficial and subsurface connection to Llanquihue Lake and Maullin River leading to highly disturbed ecosystems in the middle of the city. Given the unplanned growth of the city in the past, several parts of this system have been lost. Nowadays the city has four main wetlands: Baquedano, El Loto, Los Helechos and Las Ranas. These wetlands are a habitat for more than 70 species of birds, 100 species of plants, 20 species of native fish and nearly 50% of the migratory birds from Chile. Present threats to this wetland system include invasive species, such as stray dogs and lotus, the filling of wetlands and its water retention, the illegal deposit for garbage and debris, industrial liquid residues and illegal wood extraction along with the low sense of value placed on it by the community.
The Baquedano wetland is located in the north side of the city and is classified as permanent wetland on inorganic soils by the Ramsar Convention, specifically the subtype of forest swamp. It is habitat for several species that are exclusive to wetlands, such as Piden (Pardirallus sanguinolentus), Chilean Frog (Calytocephalla gayi) and remnant of swamp forest species such as Pitra (Myrceugenia exsuca), highlighting the value of these urban wetlands for biodiversity conservation. At the same time this wetland fulfills a role for the city, contributing to the mitigation of and protection against flooding. Despite its important role in the urban ecosystem, this wetland is highly fragmented and disconnected from the wetland network. In 1962 the wetland covered 4350 m2 and at the present shows a loss of 92% of its surface due to housing construction. In addition, the wetland is cover in debris, garbage, polluted by runoff and disturbed by stray dogs and parked vehicles.
A Green Infrastructure Plan of Llanquihue, which includes the Baquedano Wetland Park, was developed through the joint working of the Landscape Architecture Master Program Universidad de Chile and the NGO Legado Chile Fundatio. It is a response to several socio-ecological pressures created by urban living that were affecting ecosystems within the city boundaries. In 2016 both institutions called on an open dialogue with 300 members of the community, including residences, local authorities, the school community, regional services, representative of productive industries, scientists and planners to co-create the principles for the design of a Green Infrastructure Plan. As a result, the first future vision of the city, for the middle term and long term, was developed together with a portfolio prioritising projects to be done. The plan included the execution of a pilot project that served as a milestone and reference point for planning with green infrastructure, done with the Baquedano Wetland Park.
The project was funded by different institutions including the Regional Government and the municipality, through Funds for Local Initiatives. The project was implemented by Legado Chile Fundation, Landscape Architecture Master Program UC and the Municipality of Llanquihue, under the Conservation Plan “Llanquihue, city of wetlands” (report released July 9th 2020).
The green infrastructure plan, and the pilot project that served as a milestone, had three main objectives and actions related:
1) To restore the ecology of the urban ecosystem as it has a key role for the city, its need to be valued and integrated into planning.
2) To integrate social programs in the restoration initiatives, promoting the sense of place from the community.
3) To connect the diversity of wetland patches through a continuous network of public spaces, developing circuits and corridors that socially and ecological enable connections.
Several actions based on the use of green infrastructure were implemented, included mobility strips focused on favour the direct contact with the landscape elements, contributing to maintain ecological and hydrological processes, promoting ecological connectivity. These strips have been managed through soil management, the design of infiltration strips, walking circuits at the level of the natural elevation, with fine gravel soils to favour infiltration and elevated walkways to regulate accessibility, allowing the ecological recovery and hydrological function of the urban wetland. The nodes of the system are places to notice in the landscape, given by the landscape components in the area, the visibility towards the surrounding landscape or given its role and significative public space such as playgrounds, refugees or lookouts. The areas are recognised as elements of management of larger spaces that have a significant ecological or cultural role which require management actions for its recovery and/or conservation. This includes actions of restoration of wetland vegetation, native tree planting to restore habitat functionality and capacity to serve as a refugee for fauna.
After a year of implementing the project, the changes in perception were evaluated using qualitative analysis evaluating 9 dimensions of the wetland. Most people recognise the value of wetlands and its benefits by giving positive adjectives such as beautiful, important, attractive, related with identity and biodiversity. A third of the surveyed people visited the park once a day, while more than 50% visited the park weekly. The most mentioned activities done in the park included walking, contemplating, resting and observing nature. Perception changes from the previous condition of the wetland had negative attributes associated with it such as ugly, dirty, dangerous, and the majority of the surveyed people didn’t visited the wetland. Finally, the people recognised that the responsibility of taking care of the wetlands should be shared by public institutions, NGOs and the community. In the case of the park itself people recognized that the responsibility lies with each person to care for the environment.
The most evident benefits of the EEP implementation are relate to:
- Maintain Biodiversity.
- Increase quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures.
- Improve connectivity and functionality of green and blue infrastructures.
- Greater ecological connectivity across urban regenerated sites.
- Increase amount of green open spaces for residents.
- Increase communities’ sense of ownership and social interaction
- Restoring ecosystems and their functions
- Enhancing sustainable urbanisation
This case study provides actions and information for upscaling the results and learning lessons from this interventions on the Baquedano wetlands; it can be used to inform management in other wetlands or blue infrastructures in the Los Lagos Region.
Universidad de Chile
Santiago de Chile, Chile
- 3. Good Health and Well-being
- 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
- 15. Life On Land