Facilitation of Nothofagus antarctica (Fagaceae) seedlings by the prostrate shrub Empetrum rubrum (Empetraceae) on glacial moraines in Patagonia

Juan Marcos Henríquez*, Christopher H. Lusk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although positive interactions among plants are believed to be common in primary succession, they have rarely been demonstrated on glacial moraines. In Patagonia, the prostrate shrub Empetrum rubrum is dominant in early succession in recently deglaciated valleys, eventually being replaced by the small tree Nothofagus antarctica. This study experimentally evaluates the effects of E. rubrum shrubs on density, biomass, growth and survival of N. antarctica seedlings. The initial density of the seedlings was significantly higher under the canopy of Empetrum than in open areas. A removal experiment was performed to evaluate the influence of Empetrum on survival and growth of seedlings that germinated naturally beneath the canopy of this species. The shrub cover was removed from half of a sample of randomly selected seedlings, and left intact above the remainder. One year later, seedlings with an intact cover of E. rubrum showed significantly higher survival, growth and leaf number than seedlings which had been exposed. The results suggest that the presence of E. rubrum facilitates the establishment of N. antarctica in post-glacial succession, mainly as a result of more favourable microclimatic conditions under the shrub canopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-882
Number of pages6
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume30
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

Keywords

  • Nurse plant
  • Positive interactions
  • Primary succession

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