Riparian vegetation quality evaluation of two coastal watersheds in southern Chile by applying QBR index as base for its territorial management and planning

Riparian vegetation comprises the ecotonal zone in the transition between a water body and the adjacent terrestrial environment and it plays an elemental role in the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. Coverage, structure, and composition of vegetation have a fundamental influence in controlling the energetic input in the aquatic ecosystem. The multiple environmental functions performed by riparian ecosystems and the flow of ecosystem services, influencing in a direct or indirect way the well-being of society, makes knowledge of ecological quality of these areas to be considered as a good environmental indicator. It is useful in territory management and planning, particularly in coastal ecosystems. By applying the QBR index, it was possible to determine the quality of riparian vegetation in Chaihuin and Lingue rivers, both coastal basins in southern Chile. The results indicate that the Chaihuin river has a better quality of vegetation on its banks, compared with Lingue river, where low QBR values are product of the replacement of natural riparian vegetation due to establishment of agricultural land and forest plantations. The application of this index and the overall experience of its use, indicate it to be an economic and quick-use tool that provides reliable and useful results for decision-making in territorial diagnosis, considering the multiple roles and values that makes riparian vegetation good environmental indicators and diagnosing main impacts and problems to propose restoration and/or mitigation measures.

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