, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 149-167

Catastrophic influences on the vegetation of the Valdivian Andes, Chile

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In association with a devastating earthquake in 1960, thousands of debris avalanches, landslides, and mudflows occurred in the Andes of south-central Chile. Catastrophic mass movements associated with seismic activity have affected the Andes of south-central Chile several times in the past 400 years and have profoundly influenced the regional vegetation.

The most widespread forest types in the Andean Cordillera of the Province of Valdivia (latitude 39°25′ to 40°40′ S) are dominated byNothofagus spp. andEucryphia cordifolia and characteristically have an intermediate layer of shade-tolerant trees. These forest types represent relatively early successional phases following forest destruction by catastrophic phenomena. The supporting evidence for this interpretation includes: (1) the nature of the colonization of the surfaces exposed by the 1960 mass movements, (2) the structure of the existing forest vegetation, (3) the ecological characteristics of the dominant trees, and (4) the historical frequency of similar catastrophic events in the Andes of south-central Chile.