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Vegetation responses to past volcanic disturbances at the Araucaria araucana forest-steppe ecotone in northern Patagonia
  • Ricardo Moreno-Gonzalez
Ricardo Moreno-Gonzalez
University of Göttingen
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Abstract

Aims Volcanic eruptions play an important role in vegetation dynamics and its historical range of variability. However, large events are infrequent and eruptions with significant imprint in today vegetation occurred far in the past, limiting our understanding of ecological process. Volcanoes in southern Andes have been active during the last 10 ka, and support unique ecosystems such as the Araucaria-Nothofagus forest as part of the Valdivian Temperate Rainforest Hotspot. Araucaria is an endangered species, strongly fragmented and well adapted to disturbances. Yet it was suggested that volcanism might have increased the fragmentation of its populations. To provide an insight into the vegetation responses to past volcanic disturbances, a paleoecological study was conducted to assess the role of volcanic disturbance on the vegetation dynamics and if the current fragmentation has been caused by volcanism. Location Araucaria forest-steppe ecotone in northern Patagonia. Methods Pollen and tephra analysis from a sedimentary record. Results During the last 9 kyr, 39 tephrafall buried the vegetation around Lake Relem, more frequently between 4-2 ka. The vegetation was sensitive to small tephrafall but seldom caused significant changes. However, the large eruption of Sollipulli-Alpehue (~3 ka) might change the environmental conditions affecting severely the forest and grassland, as suggested by the pollen record. Ephedra dominated early successional stage, perhaps facilitating Nothofagus regeneration recovering original condition after ~500 years. Slight increase of pollen percentage from Araucaria and Nothofagus obliqua-type could be indicative of sparse biological legacies distributed in the landscape. The analysis showed that vegetation resisted without permanent changes, recovering relatively fast after the large eruption. Conclusion The relative stability of Araucaria pollen in the study area after several tephrafall suggests no change in its past geographical distribution at the current forest-steppe ecotone, thus I found no evidence that volcanic eruptions would have affected its current conservation status.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

15 Jul 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
16 Jul 2021Assigned to Editor
16 Jul 2021Submission Checks Completed
22 Jul 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned