Claudia Mansilla Andrade

PhD Research Student

MSc Conservation of subantarctic environments, University of Magallanes, Chile (2008)
BSc Biology, Department of Botany, University of Concepcion, Chile (2002)

Supervisors: Dr Robert D. McCulloch, Dr Eileen Tisdall

Start Date: 1st May 2011

3A124A, Cottrell Building
Biological & Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling
Stirling, Scotland, FK9 4LA

tel: +44 (0) 1786 466542
fax: +44 (0) 1786 467843
email: c.a.mansillaandrade@stir.ac.uk

Research Project

Late-glacial/Holocene vegetation history of Fuego-Patagonia, southern South America (53-55°S).

The region of Fuego-Patagonia (Fig. 1), is an ideal place for the reconstruction of past vegetation communities changes and inferring the climatic conditions under which these changes took place, due to its subantarctic physical setting, topography and climate. Among the different vegetation communities of the Fuegian region, the forests of Nothofagus have been the dominant type and were able to survive in refugia during the last glacial period. Moreover, Nothofagusforests have historically been an important source of food and shelter for the early inhabitants of this region. Despite their importance, few high-resolution palaeoecological records are currently available and as a result, the links between the environmental changes and human settlement and migration across Fuego-Patagonia during the late-glacial and early Holocene are not fully understood.

The goal of the present study is to reconstruct past vegetation communities through the extraction of cores from peatlands and the analysis of high-resolution pollen fossil records. Study sites will be located along the present ecotonal boundaries of Nothofagus forest and the steppe zone on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Pollen records will be supported by lithostratigraphic analysis, radiocarbon dating and tephrochronology.

The analysis from palaeoecological records performed here will have the potential to help address the following issues:

  • the timing and rate of vegetation migration and colonisation of deglaciated terrain during the Late-glacial/Holocene transition,
  • the establishment and migration of subantarctic Nothofagus forest across Fuego-Patagonia,
  • the relationship between fire frequency and changes in vegetation communities and
  • to infer climatic changes from the paleovegetation record. 
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