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Cushion Peatlands in the High Andes of Northwestern Argentina as Archives for Palaeoenvironmental Research

Series: Dissertationes Botanicae Volume: 412

By: Klaus Schittek(Author)

412 pages, 47 illustrations, 5 tables

Schweizerbart Science Publishers

Paperback | Aug 2014 | #216538 | ISBN-13: 9783443643256
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £50.99 $66/€57 approx

About this book

Language: English

High-Andean cushion peatlands contain valuable climate information for palaeoenvironmental research. They respond very sensitively to environmental changes and therefore are ideal to apply methods such as geochemical, macrofossil and statistical evaluations in order to reconstruct palaeoclimates.

The benefits of these geoarchives are that they are comparable accross climatic gradients, that they feature high rates of accumulation and therefore time resolution and that their peat deposits are of high quality which lend themselves to precise 14C-dating. The author is able to demonstrate that fire has played an important role in the ecology of high-altitude Andean grassland vegetation during the past millennia. Macroscopic analysis of charred particles from the sedimentary records of two high-altitude peatlands of the Eastern Cordillera of Northwestern Argentina were able to provide important information on variations in local fire regimes in the past, hence offering insights into climatic variations and the subsequent response of the high-Andean vegetation during the Holocene. The results provide evidence that Northern Hemisphere temperature oscillations were extensive and affected the intensity of moisture flux within the South American summer monsoon belt.

This study is among the first to consider plant macrofossils (tissue remains and seeds), zoological macrofossils (Neorhabdocoela and Copepoda) and fungal spores (Glomus spec.) extracted from Andean peat accumulations.


1. Introduction 15

2. „Puna“ – The study area in the Andes of northwestern Argentina 17
2.1 Geographical setting 17
2.2 Geologic and geomorphic processes 19
2.3 Soils 21
2.4 Present-day climate of the NW Argentine Andes 22
2.4.1 General aspects 22
2.4.2 The origin of precipitation in NW Argentina 22
2.4.3 Interannual variability related to El Niño Southern Oscillation 25
2.5 The study sites and their local climate setting 25
2.6 Hydrological and geocryological aspects 26
2.7 Zonal vegetation of the Puna and Altoandean highlands 29
2.7.1 General aspects 29
2.7.2 Altitudinal zonation of the highland vegetation 29
2.8 History and impact of human occupation in the NW Argentine Andes 35
2.8.1 Human settlement history 35
2.8.2 Human impact in the high Andes 39

3. Current state of cushion peatland research 40
3.1 Vegetation and ecology of cushion peatlands in the high Andes of northwestern Argentina 40
3.2 Holocene landscape and climate evolution in the Central Andes 45

4. Material and Methods 49
4.1 Field work 49
4.2 Chronology 50
4.3 Total carbon and total nitrogen content 51
4.4 Macrofossil analysis 51
4.5 Macroscopic charcoal analysis 52

5. Results 53
5.1 Chorcán 53
5.1.1 Stratigraphy and chronology 56
5.1.2 Geochemical analyses 58
5.1.3 Macrofossil analysis 61
5.1.4 Macroscopical charred particles 65
5.1.5 Statistical treatment of the charcoal data 67
5.1.6 Excursus: Taxonomical identifi cation of charred grass particles 70
5.2 Lizoite 72
5.2.1 Stratigraphy and chronology 74
5.2.2 Geochemical analyses 75
5.2.3 Macrofossil analysis 77
5.2.4 Macroscopical charred particles 80
5.2.5 Statistical treatment of the charcoal data 80

6. Discussion 83
6.1 Cushion peatlands – a high-resolution geoarchive for palaeoclimate reconstruction in South America 83
6.1.1 Peat – the basis for peatland palaeoclimate reconstruction 83
6.1.2 Methodological key attributes for reconstructing and interpreting cushion peatland chronologies 86
6.2 The mire under fire – how high-Andean peatlands record past fire activity 93
6.2.1 The role of the catchment area 93
6.2.2 The role of the environment 96
6.3 Holocene palaeoenvironmental changes and local fire history 102
6.3.1 Synopsis of the palaeoecological data 102
6.3.2 Holocene changes in South American summer monsoon activity 103
6.3.3 The Early Holocene 106
6.3.4 The Middle Holocene 108
6.3.5 The Late Holocene 108
6.4 Climate change and cultural response in the Puna archaeological record of the past 3000 years 113

7. Conclusions 114
7.1 Cushion peatlands in the high Andes of northwestern Argentina – sensitive ecosystems in a changing environment 114
7.2 Research needs for ecology and palaeoecology 115
References 117

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