Precipitation declines influence the understory patterns in Nothofagus pumilio old-growth forests in northwestern Patagonia

Soto, Daniel P.; Donoso, Pablo J.; Zamorano-Elgueta, Carlos; Rios, Andrea, I; Promis, Alvaro


Forest understories are essential to plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. However, studies about changes in understory patterns as affected by varying precipitation are scarce. Pure Nothofagus pumilio (common name: lenga) forests dominate the eastern side of the Andes mountains in Patagonia across an ample range of precipitation (-1500?500 mm). By studying the same forest type, in the same developmental stage (old-growth), we aimed to isolate the effects of precipitation upon these N. pumilio ecosystems, particularly for the understory. Three sites were selected with annual average precipitations of -1000 mm (humid), -800 mm (mesic), and 600 mm (dry), with a distance of 30 km between the humid and the dry sites, and only 18 km between the mesic and the dry sites. In each site, we established three 40 ? 40 m plots in 4 blocks, and 30 1 m2 regeneration subplots within each plot. In each subplot we measured vascular plant cover, richness and diversity (alpha and beta), litter cover and coarse woody debris, plus several abiotic variables. We analyzed the data with mixed analysis of variance, differences of understory plant communities through blocked distance-based multivariate analysis of variance, and visualized the groups (sites) with non-metric multidimensional scaling. Indicator species at each site were identified through blocked species indicator analysis. The dry site differed significantly compared to the humid and mesic sites, with the lowest understory cover (4 vs. 82?78%), plant richness (15 vs. 25?26 species), and Simpson diversity index (0.05 vs. 0.66?0.64) . Beta turnover diversity was higher between the dry site with either the humid and the mesic sites (?t = 0.613 and 0.561, respectively), which in turn had more species in common (?t = 0.115). An increase in exposed mineral soil, soil water content, and leaf area index occurred from dry to humid sites, and vice versa for transmitted radiation and litter cover. All sites had different indicator species, but with indicator values increasing from dry to humid sites. The dramatic impoverishment of the plant community once precipitation drops within the range of 800 and 600 mm per year in Northern Patagonia sets a warning to the potential effects of climate change upon N. pumilio-dominated forest ecosystems and their plant diversity. Some forest management and potential adaptation strategies are proposed.

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Título según WOS: Precipitation declines influence the understory patterns in Nothofagus pumilio old-growth forests in northwestern Patagonia
Volumen: 491
Editorial: Elsevier
Fecha de publicación: 2021


Notas: ISI