INSTITUTO ARGENTINO DE NIVOLOGIA, GLACIOLOGIA Y CIENCIAS AMBIENTALES
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
Vegetation development on deglaciated rock outcrops from Glaciar Frías, Argentina
GARIBOTTI, I.A.; PISSOLITO, C.I.; VILLALBA, R.
ARCTIC ANTARCTIC AND ALPINE RESEARCH
INST ARCTIC ALPINE RES
Lugar: Boulder, USA; Año: 2011 vol. 43 p. 35 - 35
The retreat of glaciers during past decades has led to the emergence of large rock outcrops in many glaciated areas around the world. Primary succession of vegetation in glacier forelands has been described for many regions, but most studies have been conducted on glacial deposits, whereas deglaciated rock outcrops have received little attention. This study assesses the pattern of primary succession on a chronosequence of five rock outcrops exposed during the past 140 years by the retreat of Glaciar Frías in the Patagonian Andes, Argentina. Data on floristic composition and species cover for algae, lichens, ferns, bryophytes, and vascular plants were recorded on sampling plots. Ordination and classification analyses discriminate three major successional stages, each dominated by a different species assemblage, suggesting directional replacement of species in the succession. The pioneer stage is dominated by the crustose lichen Placopsis perrugosa, the mid-successional stage by a lichen-moss mat dominated by the moss Racomitrium lanuginosum, and the late-successional stage by a large diversity of vascular plants. The low density of Nothofagus dombeyi saplings in the late-successional site indicates that plant succession is still in progress 140 years after deglaciation. Progress in succession appears to be influenced by species life-cycle traits and facilitative interactions among species. The comparison of the successional processes between rock outcrops and unconsolidated glacial deposits suggests that the vegetation sequence is similar, but the rate of succession is slower on rock outcrops. The development of a ground lichen-moss cover, previous to the widespread colonization by vascular plants, accounts for the slower succession progress on rock outcrops. The establishment of Nothofagus stands takes at least 100 yrs longer on the rock outcrops than on glacial deposits. Under predicted climate warming, most Patagonian Andes glaciers will continue the retreat along steep bedrock slopes, where similar, long-term vegetation successional patterns to those observed on Glaciar Frías foreland will eventually occur.