Postglacial vegetation dynamics of western Tierra del Fuego

Sonia L. Fontana, K.D. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The southern fringes of the South American landmass provide a rare opportunity to examine the development of moorland vegetation with sparse tree cover in a wet, cool temperate climate of the Southern Hemisphere. We present a record of changes in vegetation over the past 17,000 years, from a lake in extreme southern Chile (Isla Santa Inés, Magallanes region, 53°38.97S; 72°25.24W), where human influence on vegetation is negligible. The western archipelago of Tierra del Fuego remained treeless for most of the Lateglacial period; Lycopodium magellanicum, Gunnera magellanica and heath species dominated the vegetation. Nothofagus may have survived the last glacial maximum at the eastern edge of the Magellan glaciers from where it spread southwestwards and established in the region at around 10,500 cal. yr BP. Nothofagus antarctica was likely the earlier colonizing tree in the western islands, followed shortly after by Nothofagus betuloides. At 9000 cal. yr BP moorland communities expanded at the expense of Nothofagus woodland. Simultaneously, Nothofagus species shifted to dominance of the evergreen Nothofagus betuloides and the Magellanic rain forest established in the region. Rapid and drastic vegetation changes occurred at 5200 cal. yr BP, after the Mt Burney MB2 eruption, including the expansion and establishment of Pilgerodendron uviferum and the development of mixed Nothofagus-Pilgerodendron-Drimys woodland. Scattered populations of Nothofagus, as they occur today in westernmost Tierra del Fuego may be a good analogue for Nothofagus populations during the Lateglacial in eastern sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1337-1350
Number of pages14
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number11
Early online date26 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Palaeontology
  • Archaeology


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