What is the possible connection at the landscape project level between concepts from the science of ecology − such as mobile links, keystones, and support areas − with the legacy behind historical memory from a place like Isla Cautín in the city of Temuco? Our guest this week, landscape architect Osvaldo Moreno, offers us a possible vision based on the development of an urban park project on this site.
Some time ago I had access to academic articles that addressed an interesting concept associated with the notion of ecological memory, which refers to the ability of a habitat to retain certain biological traces that allow its eventual resilience and recovery despite changes or disturbances that have affected it. The activation of this memory depends on three factors: biological legacies, mobile links and support areas. Biological legacies are species or structures that persist within a disturbed area and act as sources of ecosystem recovery, such as groups of living or dead trees that provide seeds, rhizomes or buried roots and nutrients (1). Mobile links are key organisms or keystones that move between habitats and ecosystems after a disturbance to provide missing essential ecosystem processes, such as pollination, seed dispersal, or translocation of nutrients, connecting areas that may be spatially or temporarily separated (2). Support areas refer to patches or habitats that maintain viable populations as mobile links. Together, these elements interact and play a fundamental role in the renewal and reorganization of a disturbed system (3).
(1) J.M. Herrera and D. García, “The Role of Remnant Trees in Seed Dispersal through the Matrix: Being Alone is not Always so Sad,” Biological Conservation Vol.142:1 (2009), pp.149-58.
(2) J. Lundberg and F. Moberg, “Mobile Link Organisms and Ecosystem Functioning: Implications for Ecosystem Resilience and Management,” Ecosystems Vol.6:1 (2003), pp.87-98.
(3) C.R. Drever, G. Peterson, C. Messier, Y. Bergeron and M.D. Flannigan, “Can Forest Management Based on Natural Disturbances Maintain Ecological Resilience?” Can. Jour. For. Res. 36 (2006), pp.2285-99.
This conceptual battery, distanced in its origin from architectural-landscape practices and initially positioned under the wing of hard sciences, takes on meaning when it is integrated into an analysis of those disturbed landscapes that retain traces of their nature and biodiversity in the midst of highly urbanized contexts. This is the case of Isla Cautín, an enclave located near the center of the city of Temuco, which borders to the south with the Cautín river bank and to the north with the Pichicautín estuary (the ‘Little Cautín’ in Mapudungun), which runs parallel to an important road axis known today as Avenida de los Poetas. The “Island” referred to in the name Isla Cautín is a nod to its condition as ‘terra firma’ between two water courses that have historically generated seasonal floods in the sector. Its isolation was also accentuated by the Army’s occupation of much of the land, which was fenced off and restricted as a training camp. At a certain moment in history, it was traumatically associated with executions that took place there. The place where those executions occurred is now known as the firing range: an area of approximately one hundred and twenty meters that remains until today as a footprint in the void; a scar in the landscape characterized by the presence of trampled earth and seasonal herbaceous plants that are subtly different from others found in the area (fig. 01).
Isla Cautín is then a territory isolated both for its historical hydrological condition, as well as for its systematic restricted use, a situation that has allowed it to maintain its ecological memory based on biological legacies that refer to the original landscapes that were largely replaced by the city, agribusiness and forest plantations. In particular, the presence of forests of Boldos (Peumus boldus) is notable. Here there are almost two thousand specimens, which find in this latitude one of their last strongholds and that refer us to the vast territorial extension that this native species has occupied, linked more frequently to the central zone of Chile (fig. 02). Next to the Boldos are a series of herbaceous plants and plants of this ecoregion, reflecting the resilience and adaptability to constant changes. The scale of this patch of habitat, which while preserving these ecosystems can also be understood as a support area for the potential restoration of other species, poses the challenge of promoting adequate management of the resources and socio-ecological functions that it contains. This challenge implies favoring both the provision of ecosystem services that the city demands to improve its deteriorated environmental quality and the social dynamics of integration, in a context characterized by the diversity of cultures that coexist and do not currently have a meeting place within the urban space.
It is in this environmental and cultural context, in which the ecological memory of the site is linked with the historical and contemporary sociocultural dynamics, where the landscape project of the Isla Cautín Urban Park emerges − a design involving more than twenty-seven hectares. The magnitude of the surface for the project, in addition to its location in the regional context of the Araucanía, make this future park highly relevant as an emblematic project not only for the city of Temuco and the neighboring community of Padre Las Casas, but also nationwide, since it will become one of the largest urban parks in Chile.
Osvaldo Moreno Flores is an architect of the University of Chile, holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, Environment and City Planning from the National University of La Plata and holds a Ph.D. (c) in Architecture and Urban Planning. He is currently an Academic at the School of Architecture of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Chile and head of the Isla Cautín Urban Park Project since 2015.