High-resolution paleoecological analysis of recent disturbance in a southern Chilean Nothofagus forest

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Abstract

A 1600 year paleoecological record of environmental change is developed from a small lake in the Nothofagus forest of southern Chile (45.5°S, 72°W). High resolution fossil pollen, charcoal, sedimentological, and chrysophycean stomatocyst analyses are used to investigate the impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on terrestrial and lacustrine environments. Chronological control is based on a combination of 210Pb and 14C dating. Temporal resolution during the past 150–200 yr is ca. 8 yr/sample. The macroscopic charcoal record correlates very closely with historical and dendroecological records of 20th century anthropogenic burning in this region. The chrysophyte stratigraphy indicates that this burning had immediate impacts on the lake itself, while the pollen record provides evidence for a succession of vegetation changes lagging slightly behind the disturbance. These palynological changes are very similar to the pollen signal of European disturbance in northeastern North America. Pre-European shifts in chrysophyte assemblages may be due to the influence of earthquake activity on the lake, though there is no corroborative evidence in the pollen or charcoal records. This study demonstrates that high resolution paleoecological methods can be used to help bridge the temporal gap between traditional ecological and paleoecological studies of environmental change in the temperate forests of southern South America.

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