Enhancing Sustainable Agriculture and Biodiversity in Chile's Mediterranean Ecosystems: Evaluation of a Conservation Partnership with the Wine Industry

Marcela Andrea Marquez Garcia

To investigate the drivers of conservation behavior adoption among winegrowers in Chile, as well as to evaluate the impact of an emerging initiative in fostering sustainable farming.


Only 1% of Chile’s mediterranean region is officially protected, yet this region is recognized as a global conservation priority due to its unique biodiversity and increasing habitat loss. Unprecedented private land conservation efforts are desperately needed, especially partnerships with the agricultural industry, which is a major economic driver in the region. Particularly, the wine industry has undergone a rapid expansion over the last two decades in the Chilean mediterranean region, resulting in a doubling of vineyard area at the expense of native vegetation on steep hillsides. At the same time, winegrapes are a high-value specialty crop that can benefit from and contribute to conservation, as producers and consumers increasingly value environmental stewardship. A research and educational initiative called Wine, Climate Change and Biodiversity Program (VCCB, acronym in Spanish) has been implemented since 2008 to engage winegrowers in the protection of the Chilean mediterranean ecoregion. To date, little is known about the effectiveness of this wine stewardship initiative on farmer’s attitudes and behavioral change for conservation.

This project aims to identify the individual and institutional factors that explain the adoption of conservation practices among Chilean wineries, and evaluate the effectiveness of educational interventions in fostering pro-environmental agricultural behaviors. The project uses social science frameworks and methods to explore this gap in knowledge and expand the efforts of the VCCB Program, which seeks to pair agricultural expansion and land management with conservation. The first stage of the project involves a macro-scale analysis of all Chilean wineries, which is expected to enhance our understanding of the dynamics of the influences on corporate environmental management. The second stage encompasses a micro-scale analysis of the VCCB Program’s interventions, which will reveal the role of education in fostering pro-environmental behaviors in agricultural settings.

The project will add to our understanding of human interactions and factors behind sustainable agriculture and biodiversity conservation in an endangered, yet unprotected and overlooked ecoregion. The results will also help to determine the most effective range of education, outreach and management strategies to foster collaborative efforts for conservation of Chile’s Mediterranean region. Thus, this project offers both theoretical advancement and practical benefit on the ground. Understanding human attitudinal and behavioral components is critical to address the large challenges facing biological conservation in a highly populated and productive region.

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