Forests of the tropical eastern Andean flank during the middle pleistocene

Cárdenas, Macarena L.; Gosling, William D.; Pennington, R. Toby; Poole, Imogen; Sherlock, Sarah C. and Mothes, Patricia (2014). Forests of the tropical eastern Andean flank during the middle pleistocene. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 393 pp. 76–89.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.10.009

Abstract

Inter-bedded volcanic and organic sediments from Erazo (Ecuador) indicate the presence of four different forest assemblages on the eastern Andean flank during the middle Pleistocene. Radiometric dates (40Ar–39Ar) obtained fromthe volcanic ash indicate that deposition occurred between 620,000 and 192,000 years ago. Examination of the organic sediment composition and the fossil pollen, wood and charcoal it contains provides insight into depositional environment, vegetation assemblage and fire history. The high organic content and abundance of macro fossils found throughout the sediment suggest that during the period of deposition the local environment was either a swamp or a shallow water body. The correlation of fire activity (peaks in charcoal abundance) with volcanic ash deposits through most of the record suggests that volcanoes were the main source of ignition. The low abundance of grass (typically <10%) throughout the sedimentary sequence along with the low abundance of other taxa indicative of open vegetation suggests the persistence of forest at Erazo. Four types of forest assemblage were identified (with the first taxa as the most dominant): i) Alnus-Arecaceae, ii) Miconia- Melastomataceae/Combretaceae-Moraceae/Urticaceae, iii) Arecaceae-Alnus, and iv) Podocarpus with Oreopanax sp. and Melastomataceae/Combretaceae. Changes in the forest floristic composition indicate high vegetation turnover and reassortment of taxa between upper and lower montane forests during the middle Pleistocene as well as the persistence of forest cover.

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