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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

62 - Environmental history and forest regeneration dynamics in a degraded valley of north-west Argentina's cloud forests

from Part VII - Cloud forest conservation, restoration, and management issues



Extensive areas of montane cloud forests have been transformed into degraded grasslands due to intensive land use in the past. As a consequence of economic modernization and rural-to-urban migration, land-use intensity is decreasing in many of these areas. This chapter combines analysis of historic land use with dendrochronologic estimates of climate, fire, and tree establishment to explore the interactions between climate, socio-economic changes, and vegetation dynamics in a degraded valley in the cloud forest life zone of NW Argentina. During the twentieth century, population increased and became concentrated in the local capital township. State and services employment increased while density of domestic grazers decreased in the second half of the century. Rainfall increased; the period post-1970 was moister than the previous 250 years. Despite these trends, secondary tree species are not colonizing degraded grasslands in this area. The increase in rainfall and decrease in grazing intensity is negatively associated with tree recruitment, particularly with respect to Podocarpus parlatorei, the dominant tree species in secondary forests adjacent to pasture. The interpretation offered here is that decreased grazing and increased rainfall has favored grassland over shrubland. Grasslands are maintained by frequent fire, which eliminates Podocarpus seedlings and unpalatable shrubs that, in turn, facilitate Podocarpus recruitment by providing perches for seed dispersal and generate a less stressful micro-environment. Only in particular years following periods of intense fire activity, Alnus acuminata, a highly light-demanding tree species, recruits. […]

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