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Structure and Dynamics of Old-Growth Nothofagus Forests in the Valdivian Andes, Chile

T. T. Veblen, F. M. Schlegel and B. Escobar R.
Journal of Ecology
Vol. 68, No. 1 (Mar., 1980), pp. 1-31
DOI: 10.2307/2259240
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2259240
Page Count: 31
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Structure and Dynamics of Old-Growth Nothofagus Forests in the Valdivian Andes, Chile
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Abstract

(1) Analysis of the structure of old-growth Nothofagus-dominated forests in the Valdivian Andes indicates that they are not in a steady-state condition. At midelevations the lack of saplings and of relatively small-diameter individuals clearly shows that the shade-intolerant Nothofagus spp. are not regenerating in undisturbed old-growth stands. On the other hand, the population structures and reproductive behaviour of the shade-tolerant Laurelia philippiana and Saxegothaea conspicua suggest that in the absence of massive disturbance these species would replace the Nothofagus spp. at mid-elevations. (2) The failure of succession to proceed beyond the relatively early successional phase represented by the N. dombeyi- and N. alpina-dominated forests is a consequence of a long history of periodic natural catastrophes--principally landslides and volcanic eruptions. Catastrophic mass movements in the Andes of south central Chile, such as those triggered by the devastating 1960 earthquake, periodically destroy or drastically alter thousands of square kilometres of old-growth forest, creating conditions favourable to the establishment of the rapidly growing Nothofagus spp. (3) Models of vegetation change which assume long-term stability of site, and postulate successional development towards a stable end-point, are not fully consistent with the regional importance of the mid-elevation Nothofagus forests of the Valdivian Andes which are maintained by catastrophes. A kinetic scheme which does not require a stable end-point for succession and which emphasizes continuous change, even in old-growth forest, is more consistent with the dynamics described for the old-growth forests of the Valdivian Andes.

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