The Oldest, Slowest Rainforests In The World? Massive Biomass And Slow Carbon Dynamics Of Fitzroya Cupressoides Temperate Forests In Southern Chile

  • Sites: CL-ACF
  • Publication Type: EJOUR
  • Authors: Urrutia-Jalabert, R.; Malhi, Y.; Lara, A.

  • Old-growth temperate rainforests are, per unit area, the largest and most long-lived stores of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, but their carbon dynamics have rarely been described. The endangered Fitzroya cupressoides forests of southern South America include stands that are probably the oldest dense forest stands in the world, with long-lived trees and high standing biomass. We assess and compare aboveground biomass, and provide the first estimates of net primary productivity (NPP), carbon allocation and mean wood residence time in medium-age stands in the Alerce Costero National Park (AC) in the Coastal Range and in old-growth forests in the Alerce Andino National Park (AA) in the Andean Cordillera. Aboveground live biomass was 113–114 Mg C ha-1 and 448–517 Mg C ha-1 in AC and AA, respectively. Aboveground productivity was 3.35–3.36 Mg C ha-1 year-1 in AC and 2.22–2.54 Mg C ha-1 year-1 in AA, values generally lower than others reported for temperate wet forests worldwide, mainly due to the low woody growth of Fitzroya. NPP was 4.21–4.24 and 3.78–4.10 Mg C ha-1 year-1 in AC and AA, respectively. Estimated mean wood residence time was a minimum of 539–640 years for the whole forest in the Andes and 1368–1393 years for only Fitzroya in this site. Our biomass estimates for the Andes place these ecosystems among the most massive forests in the world. Differences in biomass production between sites seem mostly apparent as differences in allocation rather than productivity. Residence time estimates for Fitzroya are the highest reported for any species and carbon dynamics in these forests are the slowest reported for wet forests worldwide. Although primary productivity is low in Fitzroya forests, they probably act as ongoing biomass carbon sinks on long-term timescales due to their low mortality rates and exceptionally long residence times that allow biomass to be accumulated for millennia.


  • Journal: Plos One
  • Funding Agency: —
  • Citation Information:
  • Volume: 10
  • No: 9
  • Pages: e0137569
  • Publication Year: 2015/09/09
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137569