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Volume 6, issue 4 | Copyright
Earth Surf. Dynam., 6, 829-858, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Oct 2018

Research article | 08 Oct 2018

Effect of changing vegetation and precipitation on denudation – Part 1: Predicted vegetation composition and cover over the last 21 thousand years along the Coastal Cordillera of Chile

Christian Werner1, Manuel Schmid2, Todd A. Ehlers2, Juan Pablo Fuentes-Espoz3, Jörg Steinkamp1, Matthew Forrest1, Johan Liakka4, Antonio Maldonado5, and Thomas Hickler1,6 Christian Werner et al.
  • 1Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt, Germany
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Tuebingen, Wilhelmstrasse 56, 72074 Tuebingen, Germany
  • 3Department of Silviculture and Nature Conservation, University of Chile, Av. Santa Rosa 11315, La Pintana, Santiago RM, Chile
  • 4Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Thormøhlens gate 47, 5006 Bergen, Norway
  • 5Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Zonas Áridas (CEAZA), Raúl Bitrán 1305, La Serena, Chile
  • 6Department of Physical Geography, Geosciences, Goethe University, Altenhoeferallee 1, 60438 Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Abstract. Vegetation is crucial for modulating rates of denudation and landscape evolution, as it stabilizes and protects hillslopes and intercepts rainfall. Climate conditions and the atmospheric CO2 concentration, hereafter [CO2], influence the establishment and performance of plants; thus, these factors have a direct influence on vegetation cover. In addition, vegetation dynamics (competition for space, light, nutrients, and water) and stochastic events (mortality and fires) determine the state of vegetation, response times to environmental perturbations and successional development. In spite of this, state-of-the-art reconstructions of past transient vegetation changes have not been accounted for in landscape evolution models. Here, a widely used dynamic vegetation model (LPJ-GUESS) was used to simulate vegetation composition/cover and surface runoff in Chile for the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the mid-Holocene (MH) and the present day (PD). In addition, transient vegetation simulations were carried out from the LGM to PD for four sites in the Coastal Cordillera of Chile at a spatial and temporal resolution adequate for coupling with landscape evolution models.

A new landform mode was introduced to LPJ-GUESS to enable a better simulation of vegetation dynamics and state at a sub-pixel resolution and to allow for future coupling with landscape evolution models operating at different spatial scales. Using a regionally adapted parameterization, LPJ-GUESS was capable of reproducing PD potential natural vegetation along the strong climatic gradients of Chile, and simulated vegetation cover was also in line with satellite-based observations. Simulated vegetation during the LGM differed markedly from PD conditions. Coastal cold temperate rainforests were displaced northward by about 5° and the tree line and vegetation zones were at lower elevations than PD. Transient vegetation simulations indicate a marked shift in vegetation composition starting with the past glacial warming that coincides with a rise in [CO2]. Vegetation cover between the sites ranged from 13% (LGM: 8%) to 81% (LGM: 73%) for the northern Pan de Azúcar and southern Nahuelbuta sites, respectively, but did not vary by more than 10% over the 21000 year simulation. A sensitivity study suggests that [CO2] is an important driver of vegetation changes and, thereby, potentially landscape evolution. Comparisons with other paleoclimate model drivers highlight the importance of model input on simulated vegetation.

In the near future, we will directly couple LPJ-GUESS to a landscape evolution model (see companion paper) to build a fully coupled dynamic-vegetation/landscape evolution model that is forced with paleoclimate data from atmospheric general circulation models.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Vegetation is crucial for modulating rates of denudation and landscape evolution, and is directly influenced by climate conditions and atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Using transient climate data and a state-of-the-art dynamic vegetation model we simulate the vegetation composition and cover from the Last Glacial Maximum to present along the Coastal Cordillera of Chile. In part 2 we assess the landscape response to transient climate and vegetation cover using a landscape evolution model.
Vegetation is crucial for modulating rates of denudation and landscape evolution, and is...