Soil-plant relationships and tree distribution in old growth Nothofagus betuloides and Nothofagus pumilio forests of Tierra del Fuego

Joan Romanyà, Jaume Fons, Teresa Sauras-Yera, Emilia Gutiérrez, V. Ramon Vallejo

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    32 Citations (Scopus)


    The evergreen Nothofagus betuloides and deciduous Nothofagus pumilio live close together in Tierra del Fuego. The fact that these two species rarely form mixed forests suggests that the soil factor can contribute to the distribution of two species on a local scale. Most of these forests are undisturbed; therefore, soil characteristics may reflect both the influence of the species and of the dominant pedogenetic processes. In this paper, we aim to study how soil characteristics can affect nutrient cycling, the strategies of tree nutrition and the distribution of Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego. Twenty-two soils in these two types of forests in contrasted topographic positions were sampled and analysed. The dominant soil processes were waterlogging in the evergreen forest and podzolisation in the deciduous one. Within each type of forest we observed large variability in soils. Nutrient-poor litter slowed down nitrogen cycling. However, phosphorus mobilisation was high in nutrient-poor environments because of low pH and waterlogging. Chemical and biological characteristics of the Oa horizon were able to discriminate between forest types while mineral soil characteristics were not. Biological activity of the organic horizons was limited by low pH and, in N. betuloides forests, also by waterlogging conditions. According to this pattern, N. betuloides grows in less fertile soils and thus has lower nutrient concentrations in leaves. In contrast, N. pumilio grows in soils with higher fertility and consequently has high nutrient content in leaves. Despite growing in low fertility sites, N. betuloides grows at a rate similar to that of N. pumilio. This suggests that the evergreen species is more efficient in using nutrients and better adapted to waterlogging conditions. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-180
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


    • Forest floor
    • Leaf nutrient content
    • Nitrogen
    • Phosphorus
    • Soil nutrient availability


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