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Vegetation of Bosque Fray Jorge National Park and its surrounding matrix in the Coastal Desert of north-central Chile

Author:
Squeo, Francisco A., Loayza, Andrea P., López, Ramiro P., Gutiérrez, Julio R.
Source:
Journal of arid environments 2016 v.126 pp. 12-22
ISSN:
0140-1963
Subject:
cacti and succulents, dry environmental conditions, ecological restoration, forests, goats, herding, human settlements, models, national parks, plant communities, plantations, prairies, shrublands, shrubs, species diversity, wind farms, wind turbines, Chile
Abstract:
Within its almost 9000 ha, Bosque Fray Jorge National Park (BFJNP) possesses a natural mosaic of vegetation formations dominated by thorn scrub (63.3% of the park) and scrub with cacti and other succulents (34.1%); these formations, whose plant covers are above 40%, are representative of the Coastal Desert vegetation. Additionally, BFJNP has 230 ha (2.6%) of a relict fog forest. This unique combination of vegetation formations, partly explains the high plant species richness of the park. We discuss the climatic and topo-edaphic factors associated with each type of vegetation formation.Compared to BFJNP, the surrounding vegetation matrix shows evidence of changes in both the dominant vegetation and their plant covers; moreover, it is floristically depauperate relative to the park. This territory also includes agricultural land and plantations of non-native shrubs, as well as goat herding and small, inter-dispersed human settlements. Its main land cover types are: scrub (50%), scrub with succulents (34%), agricultural land (8%), secondary prairies (3.5%), and plantations of non-native shrubs (1.6%). Approximately 22% of this area presents high levels of anthropization. Additionally, two wind farms (217 wind turbines) have begun operating within the vicinity of BFJNP within the past two years.BFJNP provides more than a mere representative sample of the current vegetation; it constitutes a remnant of the natural vegetation that once dominated the Coastal Desert before European colonization. Whereas the relict fog forest has been historically isolated, the desert vegetation is increasingly losing connectivity outside the park. We discuss the consequences of this isolation in terms of long-term maintenance of biodiversity. We argue that plant communities at BFJNP are the best available model for ecological restoration projects in this region of Chile.
Agid:
5252658