An approach to the ecological footprint of Malargüe, Argentina

Every day, more people choose to live in cities. Cities are the physical support for many human populations and where economic and social activities are developed. Nevertheless, urban areas are heterotrophic systems from an energetic and ecologic view hardly dependent on matter and energy which usually come from productive external ecosystems, even from distant territories. Also, the growing demand for material and energy in urban contexts cause an increasing pressure on vital species for human beings and other organisms in the regional and extra-regional terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, with important effects in natural resources and ecological services associated to them. This paper analyzes productive terrestrial ecosystem appropriation associated with the consumption in the city of Malargüe, Argentina, in 2010. It employed Rees (1996) methodology called the Ecological Footprint (EF). It allows us to measure resources demand which come from the city's external ecosystems in spatial terms (hectare). In order to calculate the ecological footprint, some consumption categories or items - e. g. food, wood and paper, carbon sequestration, wastes final disposition and urban uses- were established. To express them in area terms (ha), it was necessary to take specific decisions to adapt the original methodology to the particular case of Malargüe. It was also necessary to know the physical and social economic consumption characteristics and to assess how these are related with external ecosystems. Once the total ecological footprint area had been calculated, it was compared with the local charge capacity to know if it was sustainable or not. As a result, the city was unsustainable considering the categories or items studied. The consumption of ecosystem productive areas in the city of Malargüe proved to be 16.45 times bigger than its own administrative area.

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