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Frontiers in Plant Science

Agroecology and Land Use Systems

This article is part of the Research Topic

Palynology and Vegetation History

Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Plant Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.00196

Long-term vegetation dynamics in a megadiverse hotspot: the ice-age record of a pre-montane forest of central Ecuador.

 Encarni Montoya1, 2*,  Hayley F. Keen2, Carmen X. Luzuriaga-Quichimbo3 and  William D. Gosling2, 4
  • 1Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra Jaume Almera (CSIC), Spain
  • 2The Open University, United Kingdom
  • 3Estación Biológica de Pindo-Mirador, Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial, Ecuador
  • 4Institute of Biodiversity & Ecosystems Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Tropical ecosystems play a key role in many aspects of Earth system dynamics currently of global concern, including carbon sequestration and biodiversity. To accurately understand complex tropical systems it is necessary to parameterise key ecological aspects, such as rates of change, dynamism, resilience or stability. To obtain a long-term (>50 years) perspective on these ecological aspects we must turn to the fossil record. However, collecting continuous sedimentary archives in the lowland tropics is often difficult due to the active landscape processes, with potentially frequent volcanic, tectonic and/or fluvial events confounding sediment deposition, preservation and recovery.
One of the first lowland Amazonian locations from which palaeoecological data were obtained was an outcrop near Mera (Ecuador). Mera was discovered, and analysed, by Paul Colinvaux in the 1980’s, but his interpretation of the data as indicative of a forested glacial period were criticised based on the ecology and age control. Here we present new palaeoecological data from a lake located less than 10 km away from Mera. Sediment cores raised from Laguna Pindo (1250 m asl; 1o27’S, 78o05’W) have been shown to span the late last glacial period (50 to 13 cal kyr BP). The palaeoecological information obtained from Laguna Pindo indicate that the region was characterised by a relatively stable plant community, formed by taxa nowadays common at mid and high elevations. Miconia was the dominant taxa until around 30 cal kyr BP, when it was replaced by Hedyosmum, Asteraceae and Ilex among other taxa. Heat intolerant taxa including Podocarpus, Alnus, and Myrica peaked around the onset of the Last Glacial Maximum (c. 21 cal kyr BP). The results obtained from Laguna Pindo support Colinvaux’s hypothesis that glacial cooling resulted in a reshuffling of taxa in the region but did not lead to a loss of the forest structure. Wide tolerances of of the plant species occurring to glacial temperature ranges and cloud formation have been suggested to explain Pindo forest stability. This scenario is radically different than the present situation, so vulnerability of the tropical pre-montane forest is highlighted to be increased in the next decades.

Keywords: Diversity dynamics, Eastern Andean flank, Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), Neotropics, Palaeoecology, stability, Vulnerability, Western equatorial Amazonia

Received: 16 Nov 2017; Accepted: 01 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Urs Feller, University of Bern, Switzerland

Reviewed by:

Juanma Rubiales, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM), Spain
Walter Finsinger, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), France
Irene Tunno, University of Nevada, Reno, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Montoya, Keen, Luzuriaga-Quichimbo and Gosling. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Encarni Montoya, Instituto de Ciencias de la Tierra Jaume Almera (CSIC), Barcelona, Spain,