Vegetation responses to past volcanic disturbances at the Araucaria araucana forest‐steppe ecotone in northern Patagonia

2022-10-01 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Vegetation responses to past volcanic disturbances at the Araucaria araucana forest‐steppe ecotone in northern Patagonia​
Moreno‐Gonzalez, R.​ (2022) 
Ecology and Evolution12(10).​ DOI: 

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Moreno‐Gonzalez, Ricardo
Abstract Volcanic eruptions play an important role in vegetation dynamics and its historical range of variability. However, large events are infrequent and eruptions with a significant imprint in today's vegetation occurred far in the past, limiting our understanding of ecological processes. Volcanoes in southern Andes have been active during the last 10 ka and support unique ecosystems such as the Araucaria–Nothofagus forest. Araucaria is an endangered species, with a fragmented distribution and well‐adapted to fire and volcanic disturbances. Yet, it was suggested that volcanism might have increased the fragmentation. Through the use of pollen and tephra analysis from a sedimentary record, this paleoecological study aims to provide an insight into the vegetation responses to past volcanic disturbances, to assess the role of volcanic disturbance on the vegetation dynamics and to determine if the current fragmentation has been caused by volcanism. Results show that during the last 9 kyr, 39 tephra falls buried the vegetation around Lake Relem, more frequently between 4 and 2 ka. The pollen percentage indicates that the vegetation changed after small tephra fall but seldom caused significant changes. However, the large eruption of Sollipulli volcano (~3 ka) changed the environmental conditions affecting severely the vegetation. Ephedra dominated the early successional stage, perhaps facilitating Nothofagus recovering after ~500 years. Slight increase of Araucaria and Nothofagus obliqua‐type pollen percentages suggests that forest resisted without permanent changes and recovered relatively fast after the large eruption, perhaps because of sparse biological legacies distributed in the landscape. In the study area, the relative stability of Araucaria pollen after several tephra fall suggests no change in its past distribution at the current forest‐steppe ecotone, thus not affecting its current conservation status. Perhaps, random factors, the colonization patterns of the high elevations in the Andes after deglaciation and topography might play a more important role than previously thought.
Although past volcanic eruption might have affected the distribution of Araucaria' populations, thus its conservation status, I found no evidences that past tephra fall has impacted negatively the populations far from the volcanic source. Early succecional stages after severe tephra fall deposition were better explained by Ephedra' drought tolerance, dispersal, and regrowing mechanism, rather than the expected Nothofagus and Araucaria' shadow‐intolerant mechanism. image
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Ecology and Evolution 
Abteilung Palynologie und Klimadynamik 
Open-Access-Publikationsfonds 2022



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