Ecología Austral, 18:291–303, 2008. Paper abstract bibtex
Effects of pulp industry effluents: certainties and doubts: The growth pattern of the pulp and paper industry, as well as the associated forestry model, reveals a growing tendency to expand in Asia, Africa and South America. We believe that it is necessary to incorporate the environmental perspective on social consciousness so that decisions regarding the use and management of natural resources are not taken just by following the logic of the market. The concept of ecosystem services is a valuable aid in the analysis of environmental conflicts. The identification and quantification of ecosystem services is important because many times these services are not apparent to the average person or decision maker. In this article we focus on the analysis of the evidence of the direct impacts produced by the industrial effluents arising from the operation of pulp mills. These effluents have a considerable complexity due to the number of chemical compounds that they contain, some of them unidentified until now. Their effects are site-dependent where the physico-chemical characteristics of the receiver corp, its flow, the type of wood used in the industrial process, the effluent treatment adopted, as well as the sensitivity of the species in the ecosystem are some of the factors that determine the possible responses of the environment. Nevertheless, many ecotoxicological and eutrophication studies of water bodies have shown that some of the potential effects occur in different and distant biogeographic regions of the planet and regardless of the specific type of industrial process used. This work describe these effects, that are widely documented in the scientific literature, presented from the simplest levels of biological organization (molecular) to the most complex (ecosystems). In particular, the effects of the exposure to the endocrine disruptors have abundant laboratory and field evidence that have allowed to determine their mechanisms of action. The incorporation of new phases (e.g., secondary) in the treating systems of the industrial effluents mitigates the acute effects but not the chronic responses recorded. Based on the known effects we consider the potential impacts on the ecosystem functions and the main challenges for Latin America in the planning of this productive activity. Finally, we mention the existing difficulties in addressing environmental problems such as the high levels of associated uncertainty, the complex nature of the responses of the systems to shock or stress and the information gaps. In this scenario, we believe that the independent academic input and analysis should contribute to the decision making and help the society to build a grounded opinion.