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The Physical Geography of South America$
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Thomas Veblen, Kenneth Young, and Antony Orme

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195313413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195313413.001.0001

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Temperate Forests of the Southern Andean Region

Temperate Forests of the Southern Andean Region

(p.217) 13 Temperate Forests of the Southern Andean Region
The Physical Geography of South America

Thomas T. Veblen

Oxford University Press

Although most of the continent of South America is characterized by tropical vegetation, south of the tropic of Capricorn there is a full range of temperate-latitude vegetation types including Mediterranean-type sclerophyll shrublands, grasslands, steppe, xeric woodlands, deciduous forests, and temperate rain forests. Southward along the west coast of South America the vast Atacama desert gives way to the Mediterranean-type shrublands and woodlands of central Chile, and then to increasingly wet forests all the way to Tierra del Fuego at 55°S. To the east of the Andes, these forests are bordered by the vast Patagonian steppe of bunch grasses and short shrubs. The focus of this chapter is on the region of temperate forests occurring along the western side of the southernmost part of South America, south of 33°S. The forests of the southern Andean region, including the coastal mountains as well as the Andes, are presently surrounded by physiognomically and taxonomically distinct vegetation types and have long been isolated from other forest regions. Although small in comparison with the extent of temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere, this region is one of the largest areas of temperate forest in the Southern Hemisphere and is rich in endemic species. For readers familiar with temperate forests of the Northern Hemisphere, it is difficult to place the temper temperate forests of southern South America into a comparable ecological framework owing both to important differences in the histories of the biotas and to contrasts between the broad climatic patterns of the two hemispheres. There is no forest biome in the Southern Hemisphere that is comparable to the boreal forests of the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. The boreal forests of the latter are dominated by evergreen conifers of needle-leaved trees, mostly in the Pinaceae family, and occur in an extremely continental climate. In contrast, at high latitudes in southern South America, forests are dominated mostly by broadleaved trees such as the southern beech genus (Nothofagus). Evergreen conifers with needle or scaleleaves (from families other than the Pinaceae) are a relatively minor component of these forests.

Keywords:   Antarctic plate, Cenozoic, Gondwana, Hanta virus, Little Ice Age, Mesozoic, Nazca plate, Pacific Ocean, Scotia plate, Valdivian forest

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