Fitzroya forests in Chile

We have installed 4 plots in the Fitzroya forests in Chile, two in the coastal range (850 m elevation) and two in the Andes mountains. These plots have been operating since 2011.

The field work is the Oxford University DPhil project of Rocio Urrutia

Fitzroya cupressoides ((Molina) Johnston) or Alerce is one of the most outstanding species of the temperate rainforests of southern South America, because of its beauty, scientific, cultural and historical relevance. Fitzroya is an endangered species, endemic to these rainforests and one of the longest-lived trees in the world (with a lifespan of more than 3600 years). Alerce has suffered a long history of exploitation since European colonization began in the sixteenth century, and is currently listed as endangered in the IUCN Red list of threatened species and enjoys national legal protection. Despite its protection, Alerce remains threatened by illegal logging and intentional fires. In addition, we have an extremely limited comprehension of these forests's condition and their vulnerability to anticipated climate change because of gaps in ecological knowledge. This project is an extremely important first step to the initiation of long-term ecological research in Alerce forests growing in the Andes and in its northern distribution in the Coastal Range. This study is establishing both the first permanent plots assessing productivity and the first meteorological stations at the altitude of the study areas. We are curently running four plots (0,6 ha) in these forests. Two of them are located in the Alerce Costero National Park (Coastal Range) at 850 m a.s.l. This Park is in Los Rios Region, 46 km from La Union city. The other two were installed in the Alerce Andino National Park (Andes) at 780 m a.s.l. This Park is located in Los Lagos Region, 50 km from Puerto Montt (Chilean Patagonia). The following measurements are currently taking place since Austral winter-spring 2011: leaf, branch, woody and fine roots productivity. Radial growth is being monitored in some trees using automatic dendrometers. In addition, we are assessing soil, roots and stem respiration in these study sites.

Photos and images

Uploaded 6 Feb 2014 by Cécile Girardin. Copyright © 2022.

Congratulations to the GEM team (Chris, Yadvinder & Liana) who co-authored a paper in Nature this week (cover story):

"The paper answers a long-standing question about the net carbon balance of the Amazon forest. It uses aircraft flights throughout the year at four different locations to measure the change in carbon dioxide concentration if air as it passes over the Amazon Basin. The study shows that in wet years and wet seasons the Amazon is a net sink (i.e. absorbs carbon) from the atmosphere, but in dry years and dry seasons it is carbon neutral or a source of carbon. Our main contribution in Oxford was to provide insight from our RAINFOR-GEM intensive monitoring plots across Amazonia, which suggest that the loss of the carbon sink was caused by a reduction in photosynthesis." (Y. Malhi blog, Feb 2014)

Gatti L.V., M. Gloor, J. B. Miller, C. E. Doughty, Y. Malhi, L. G. Domingues, L. S. Basso, A. Martinewski, C. S. C. Correia, V. F. Borges, S. Freitas, R. Braz, L. O. Anderson, H. Rocha, J. Grace, O. L. Phillips & J. Lloyd Drought sensitivity of Amazonian carbon balance revealed by atmospheric measurements, Nature 506, 76–80. Supplementary Info

Download the paper from here:

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  • Thumb_malhi_pic_forest

    Yadvinder Malhi

    I am Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University.
    I lead the Ecosystems Programme at the Environmental Change Institute, with a focus of understanding the functioning of tropical forests and...

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    Rocio Urrutia Jalabert

    I am a DPhil student at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. My thesis is about primary productivity in millennial Fitzroya cupressoides forests in southern Chile,...