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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X

Abstract

CAVIERES, Lohengrin A.; PENALOZA, Alejandro  and  KALIN ARROYO, Mary. Altitudinal vegetation belts in the high-Andes of central Chile (33°S). Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2000, vol.73, n.2, pp.331-344. ISSN 0716-078X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0716-078X2000000200008.

The limits of alpine vegetation belts have been established mainly based on physiognomic criteria. However, a more objective approach for fixing limits of vegetation belts are methods based on species composition and relative abundance of each species. While these methods are more time consuming, they are more detailed and permit the detection of physical factors affecting the limits of vegetation belts. In this paper we: 1) describe the altitudinal changes of vegetation above timberline, 2) compare vegetation belts defined with physiognomy and two floristic methods (a qualitative one based on altitudinal changes in species composition, and a quantitative one based on changes in dominant species); and 3) detect some environmental factors responsible for the altitudinal distribution of alpine vegetation between 2100 and 3700 masl in the Andes of Santiago, central Chile (33°S). There was a complete agreement between the different methods in delimiting the subalpine belt. However, in the lower alpine belt (the cushion's belt) floristic methods subdivided it in 2-3 sub-belts. In the floristic methods, elevations 3500-3700 that formed the higher alpine belt segregated in separate ways because they have no species in common. Physiognomic descriptions lose relevant information about species distribution, especially at higher elevations. Mean annual temperature and nitrogen content of soil are the main environmental factors affecting the altitudinal limits of vegetation belts in the central Chilean Andes

Keywords : altitudinal vegetation belts; alpine vegetation; Andes; central Chile; cluster analysis.

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