, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 405-411

Shrub clumps of the Chilean matorral vegetation: structure and possible maintenance mechanisms

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Previous studies have claimed that the Chilean matorral is more open than the Califonia chaparral, and have attributed this dissimilarity largely to the role of man in Chile. In this paper we show that in general the Chilean matorral has a structure better described as shrub clumps that merge to form a continuous vegetation matrix only in very mesic habitats, where it is comparable to the Califonia chaparral. We also present evidence that these clumps have been present for at least the last 26 years and that even without human disturbance they are likely to maintain themselves. Evidence for the latter pertains to seed dispersal, seed germination and establishment, seedling survival, and the diameter size structure of shrub clumps. Finally, we propose that differences between the California chaparral and Chilean matorral are more profound than previously thought and are due not only to different degrees of human disturbance, but also to the presence of periodical natural fires in California and not in Chile, and to different shrub recruitment patterns and mammalian herbivore activity in the two areas.