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Vegetation in a high Andean transect between Turi and Cerro León in Northern Chile

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This paper reports the results of a phytosociological and gradient analysis of the vegetation occurring along an altitudinal gradient from Turi (3100 m) to Cerro León (4250 m) on the western flank of the Andes in northern Chile (22°06′–22°22′ S; 68°15′–68°07′ W).

Along the transect, the total cover of vegetation ranges from 2.5% at the lower end to 35.7% at 4000 m altitude. Four major physiognomic zones, including six associations are recognized within the transect studied: (1) The ‘Pre-Puna’ belt (2700–3150 m), characterized by a sparse cover of xerophytic subshrubs, including two associations: Acantholippia deserticola-Franseria meyeniana, which occurs over the sedimentary sands around Turi, and Franseria meyeniana-Helogyne macrogyne-Helianthocereus atacamensis, restricted to ravines and canyons. (2) The ‘Puna’ belt (3150–3850 m), physiognomically dominated by shrubs and presenting the highest vegetational cover, including the: Fabiana densa-Baccharis boliviensis, and Junellia seriphioides-Baccharis incarum-Lampaya medicinalis, associations. (3) The ‘High-Andean’ belt, localized above the ‘Puna’, including the Fabiana bryoides-Adesmia horrida and Oxalis exigua-Mulinum crassifolium associations. (4) The ‘Subnival’ belt, a high mountain semi-desert with a poorly developed vegetation. Only three species occur at the upper vegetational limit (4380 m).

The phytosociological scheme proposed in this paper can be paralleled with that by Ruthsatz (1977) for the eastern flank of the Andes. A marked contrast in species richness and phytosociological complexity between these Andean regions is pointed out. Lower species richness of the Chilean transect is related to the presence of the Atacama desert, which extends from the coast up to 2700 m in the study area.

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Nomenclature follows Aldunate et al. (1981).

The generous assistance of Prof. Clodomiro Marticorena, of the Universidad de Concepción, Chile, in the identification of the species is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank Victoria Castro, who invited us to participate in her Research Project at Toconce. Max Montecino kindly provided us with valuable geomorphologic and climatic data for the study area. Special thanks are due to Serena Mann for drawing the figures and graphs. Finally, we are grateful to Prof. H. Ellenberg for his interest and to J. D. Mitchell for commenting on the manuscript. Support through grants Nos. S459-791 (to V. Castro), B392-794 (to C. Villagrán) and B388-792 (to M.T.K. Arroyo), from the SDCYCI of the Universidad de Chile, is appreciated.

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Villagrán, C., Armesto, J.J. & Kalin Arroyo, M.T. Vegetation in a high Andean transect between Turi and Cerro León in Northern Chile. Vegetatio 48, 3–16 (1981).

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