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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


EASDALE, TOMÁS A; SABATE, SEBASTIÁN  and  GRAU, ALFREDO. Don't camp beside the river: structure and dynamics of Andean alder (Alnus acuminata) forests affected by river floods, northwestern Argentina. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2005, vol.78, n.4, pp.711-722. ISSN 0716-078X.

Alnus acuminata (Betulaceae) is a pioneer tree that dominates mountain riparian forests throughout the eastern Andes. Early studies associated these forests with particular microclimatic conditions along river beds, but they were later linked to the periodical disturbance regime of mountain rivers. To understand the dynamics of these forests, we analysed tree age and spatial arrangement in two plots along Potrero river and another plot along La Horqueta river, Tucumán Province, north west Argentina. Through intensive tree coring and age reconstruction we identified similar-aged tree cohorts with maximum age ranges of eight years. Tree mapping and Moran's I spatial autocorrelation analysis showed that tree cohorts were spatially clumped, and provided further evidence that coetaneous patches of A. acuminata arise from massive regeneration following catastrophic flooding events. We tested the association between cohort initiation dates and regional maximum river discharge records by means of a randomization procedure and found weak evidence that establishment occurs after devastating floods, which eliminate previous vegetation and create bare sites suitable for A. acuminata regeneration. Dates of tree floodscars sampled along Potrero river precede by one year the most recent cohort initiation date and provide further support of this association. Although previous studies found a positive correlation between El Niño events and mean annual precipitation in northwestern Argentina, we did not detect an association between El Niño and annual maximum stream flow for rivers in Tucumán Province. Therefore, factors driving devastating floods and A. acuminata stand initiation require further study

Keywords : Alnus acuminata; river floods; riparian forests; forest dynamics; El Niño/ENSO.

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