Interactions between Soil, Climate and Competing Vegetation on Soil Water Availability, Survival and Productivity on Young Stands of Radiate Pine in Chile

In March of 2015, the College of Forestry invited Dr. Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke to accompany a group of faculty members on a trip to Chile. Organized on behalf of the Chile Initiative, the trip was planned to strengthen the connections between OSU and Chilean universities and research institutions. As a faculty member in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources, and Management and the director of the Vegetation Management Research Cooperative (VMRC), Carlos Gonzalez-Benecke was the perfect addition to the College of Forestry’s mission in Chile. Before moving to the United States in pursuit of his Ph.D., Gonzalez-Benecke worked for over a decade as a forest engineer in Chile. His connections with Chilean faculty partners and his knowledge of the country and its universities would prove fundamental to the mission of the Chile Initiative.

After successfully traveling to Chile with the College of Forestry in the spring of 2015, Gonzalez-Benecke decided to get more involved with the Chile Initiative by joining the project Interactions between Soil, Climate and Competing Vegetation on Soil Water Availability, Survival and Productivity on Young Stands of Radiate Pine in Chile. The principles behind this project are based on the ability of strong weeds to outcompete tree seedlings for site resources. Considering the predicted changes in rainfall and temperature under climate change scenarios, a modification in productivity and development dynamics of forest crops species and the competing vegetation is expected. These changes should be associated to the ecophysiological adjustment of that vegetation. Gonzalez-Benecke’s project focuses on combining the efforts of OSU and Chilean forestry specialists to investigate the effects of climate change on the vegetative species in competition with young plantations of radiata pine trees in Chile and Douglas-fir in the Pacific Northwest.

Gonzalez-Benecke plans for the research conducted during this project to contribute to the development of a process-based forest modeling system that can account for the effects of climate change. Such a modeling system could be used to increase the efficiency of early growth silviculture by determining which weedy competitors require more and less intensive management. This topic will be of great importance to silviculture management in the years to come because the Pacific Northwest and Chile are expected to see drier weather with more sporadic rainfall. Because the climates in Chile and Oregon are very similar, a partnership with Chile will increase the research opportunities for this project. Gonzalez-Benecke and his colleagues in Chile are working on the submission of a proposal to Forestal Arauco inviting them to get involved with the project. A global leader in lumber distribution, Forestal Arauco’s support will be an immense asset to the project.

Research is currently focused on the management of pine plantations in Chile; however, if the data collected yields adequate results, Gonzalez-Benecke expects for the project to expand to include Douglas-fir plantations in the Pacific Northwest. Looking ahead, Gonzalez-Benecke seeks to ensure the development and expansion of this project by securing a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and by involving students in research. Should it be expanded to the Pacific Northwest, the project will include opportunities for Chilean students to conduct research at OSU. On his last trip to Chile, Gonzalez-Benecke was successful in opening internship positions at Forestal Arauco for OSU undergraduate students.

Because Gonzalez-Benecke’s project involves communication between OSU and Chile, it will advance the Chile Initiative’s goals for internationalization within the College of Forestry. Along with giving students the opportunity to conduct research internationally, Dr. Gonzalez-Benecke’s work with the Chile Initiative will advance current silvicultural management knowledge and technology in relation to the effects of climate change.


Written by Rebecca Leclere, CoF International Programs