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Impact of fire on plant community dynamics, soils, and ecosystem processes in native forests of south-central Chile

Nothofagus glauca, endemic to Chile, exhibits characteristics commonly found in fire-adapted vegetation, yet the role of fire in the evolutionary history of the vegetation in this area is poorly understood.  We are examining the effects of wildfire on secondary postfire succession in a N. glauca forest in the Coastal Cordillera of south-central Chile.  Our work has documented that the majority of the plants associated with this forest type exhibit adaptations to survive fire and/or colonize the postfire environment.  However, the presence and success of exotic invaders, particularly Pinus radiata, is altering the successional trajectory of this endemic community with unknown implications for important ecosystem processes.  Currently we are studying how invasion of these forests by P. radiata is impacting water availability and use.

Figure 7.  We are working in endemic Nothofagus glauca forests in south-central Chile to examine  the impacts of wildfire, and subsequent invasion by the nonnative Pinus radiata,  on plant community  dynamics and ecosystem processes.

Publications to Date

Litton CM, Santelices R, Sandquist DR. Pinus radiata invasion following fire alters water availability in Nothofagus glauca forests of south-central Chile. Plant Ecology, In prep.

Litton CM, Santelices R (2003) Effect of wildfire on soil physical and chemical properties in a Nothofagus glauca forest, Chile. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 76, 529-542. (PDF)

Litton CM, Santelices R (2002) Early post-fire succession in a Nothofagus glauca forest in the Costal Cordillera of south-central Chile. International Journal of Wildland Fire, 11, 115-125. (PDF)