Dendrochronology and lichenometry: colonization, growth rates and dating of geomorphological events on the east side of the North Patagonian Icefield, Chile

ABSTRACT

This paper highlights the importance for dating accuracy of initial studies of delay before colonization for both trees and lichens and tree age below core height, particularly in recently deglaciated terrain where colonization and growth rates may vary widely due to differences in micro-environment. It demonstrates, for the first time, how dendrochronology and lichenometry can be used together in an assessment of each other’s colonization and growth rates, and then cross-correlated to provide a supportive dating framework. The method described for estimating tree age below core height is also new. The results show that on the east side of the North Patagonian Icefield in the Arco and Colonia valleys, Nothofagus age below a core height of 112 cm can vary from 5 to 41 years and delay before colonization may range from a maximum of 22 years near water to a minimum of 93 years on the exposed flanks of the Arenales and Colonia Glaciers. Tree age plus colonization delay supplied a maximum growth rate of 4.7 mmryear for the lichen Placopsis perrugosa and lichen colonization is estimated to take from 2.5 to approximately 13 years. A minimum lichenometric date of 1883 was estimated for an ice-formed trimline at the junction of the Arenales and Colonia glaciers and a maximum dendrochronological date of 1881 for a water-formed trimline in the Arco valley. Tree and lichen ages around the valley suggest that a glacial outburst drained the 1881 high level lake releasing approximately 265 million cubic metres of water. Repeated flooding, with a minimum of 38 high lake levels, is suggested by horizontal sediment lines on the Arco valley walls and moraine flanks. Dating confirmed diminishing flood levels with a last minor flood in 1963. The wider significance of the work is that it should produce more accurate dating of recent glacier fluctuations around the North Patagonia Icefield, an area where dated reference surfaces are extremely scarce. q2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

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