Establishment and formation of fog-dependent Tillandsia landbeckii dunes in the Atacama Desert: Evidence from radiocarbon and stable isotopes

Claudio Latorre, Angélica L. González, Jay Quade, José M. Fariña, Raquel Pinto, Pablo A. Marquet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Extensive dune fields made up exclusively of the bromeliad Tillandsia landbeckii thrive in the Atacama Desert, one of the most extreme landscapes on earth. These plants survive by adapting exclusively to take in abundant advective fog and dew as moisture sources. Although some information has been gathered regarding their modern distribution and adaptations, very little is known about how these dune systems actually form and accumulate over time. We present evidence based on 20 radiocarbon dates for the establishment age and development of five different such dune systems located along a ∼215 km transect in northern Chile. Using stratigraphy, geochronology and stable C and N isotopes, we (1) develop an establishment chronology of these ecosystems, (2) explain how the unique T. landbeckii dunes form, and (3) link changes in foliar δ15N values to moisture availability in buried fossil T. landbeckii layers. We conclude by pointing out the potential that these systems have for reconstructing past climate change along coastal northern Chile during the late Holocene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberG03033
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Volume116
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology

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