The forest sector in Chile: an overview and current challenges.
Chile has a strong forest sector based on plantations of exotic species and an extensive area of temperate rainforests with unique ecological features and a wealth of biodiversity and endemism. We present an overview of the forest sector of Chile focused on forest resources, silviculture, economy, social and environmental aspects, and forestry education and research. The Chilean forest sector is internationally known for its success. Although this is one of the most important economic activities of Chile, management between exotic species plantations and natural forests is very asymmetric. Currently, highly intensive silviculture is applied to forest plantations of Pinus radiata (radiata pine) and Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus nitens) but only limited operational silviculture is applied to natural forests, even though there is considerable research to support it. There are still unresolved issues related to: conversion from natural forests to other land uses; pulp mills, and new efforts are needed from the government and large forestry companies to account for social and environmental demands. There is a good amount of university-level forestry education; however, there is an oversupply of professional foresters. Management and Policy Implications: This work provides insights about the Chilean forestry sector and guidance for understanding the ecological, economic, social, and silvicultural complexity of its current framework. This review indicates that most of the challenges affecting large forestry companies come from social and environmental concerns. Improving the management of planted and natural stands, plus the relationship between large companies and indigenous communities, should be the focus of policymakers. In Chile, current socioenvironmental conflicts associated with large monoculture plantations and large clearcuts and the increasing high grading of natural forests have called for a new approach in the forestry sector. This new approach should consider the following: changes in silviculture and landscape management of forest plantations, including recovery of native forest patches in regions with large and continuous areas of monocultures of exotic species; adequate subsidies for promoting the conservation and management of natural forests, therefore reversing the high grading process that is now occurring in these forests; and forestry education and research that must serve these purposes to train professionals prepared for the challenges of a discipline with major environmental, social, and economic implications on people and local communities. Chile, with its high diversity and endemism, plus the opportunities for growing highly productive forests either from plantations or native forests, could become a model for forest ecosystem management.