In Chile, roughly 16% of energy consumption comes from the residential sector, and the most consumed residential fuel is firewood (39.6%), followed by gas (31.4%), and electricity (25.7%) (Figure 1).
The use of fuelwoods in the residential sectors increases in the southern regions of Chile where it is mainly used for heating. As presented in the study by Reyes et al. (2018), for the year 2015 it was estimated that in the city of Valdivia the use of firewood corresponded to 79.1% of the residential energy matrix.
In this context, it is important to be aware of how the high consumption of fuelwoods has an impact on forests, and what are the potential negative effects on these ecosystems.
In the case of Valdivia, the firewood origin is unknown, since the largest part comes from informal sources and not from sustainably managed forests (Reyes et al., 2015; Schueftan and González, 2015).
Additionally, it is important to understand that the relation between biomass consumption and soil degradation is not necessarily direct. In fact, firewood extraction does not necessarily cause forest degradation, since a good part of native forest owners do not extract wood every year (just sporadically). This allows vegetation to recover to a certain extent, as long as there are no other activities that prevent it (e.g., extensive cattle ranching, in which cows, sheep and goats enter the forest to feed on the young trees. In the process they trample, break and destroy the future forest). The probability of producing firewood decreases when the availability of non-farm income increases (it refers to the portion of farm household income obtained off the farm, including state subsidies), or when agricultural productivity increases (Bluffstone, 1995; Amacher et al., 1996; Schively, 2001; Godoy et al., 2005).
Thus, it is important to analyze these processes from a multisystem perspective in order to understand the effects that urban and rural residential energy consumption has on ecosystems.
Amacher, G. S.; Hyde, W. F. and Kanel, K. R., 1996. Household fuelwood demand and supply in Nepal’s tarai and mid-hills: choice between cash outlays and labor opportunity. World Dev. 24(11): 1725–36.
Bluffstone. R. A., 1995. The effect of labor market performance on deforestation in developing countries under open access: An example from rural Nepal. J Environ Econ. Manag. 29(1): 42–63.
CDT. 2019. Informe final de usos de la energía de los hogares de Chile 2018.
Godoy, R.; Reyes-García, V.; Byron, E.; Leonard, W. R. and Vadez, V., 2005. The effect of market economies on the well-being of indigenous peoples and on their use of renewable natural resources. Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 34:121–38.
Reyes, R., Nelson, H., Navarro, F., Retes, C. 2015. The firewood dilemma: Human health in a broader context of well-being in Chile. Energy for Sustainable Development 28(1): 75-87.
Reyes, R., Nelson, H., Zerri¬, H. 2017. Leña: causa o consecuencia. Factores subyacentes de la producción de leña en el sur de Chile. In: Informes técnicos BES, Bosques, Energía y Sociedad, Año 3. N° 7 Diciembre 2017. Observatorio de los Combustibles Derivados de la Madera OCDM. Instituto Forestal, Chile. p. 18.
Reyes, R., Schueftan, A., Ruiz, C. 2018. Control de la contaminación atmosférica en un contexto de pobreza de energía en el sur de Chile: Los efectos no deseados de la política de descontaminación. In: Informes técnicos BES, Bosques, Energía y Sociedad, Año 4. N° 9 Marzo 2018. Observatorio de los Combustibles Derivados de la Madera OCDM. Instituto Forestal, Chile. p. 22.
Schueftan, A., González, A. 2015. Proposals to enhance thermal efficiency programs and air pollution control in south-central Chile. Energy Policy 79(1): 48-57.
Shively, G. E., 2001. Agricultural change, rural labor markets, and forest clearing: An illustrative case from the Philippines. Land Econ. 77(2): 268–84.