Extreme environments in the forests of Ushuaia, Argentina



[1] A survey over two mountain slopes (Glaciar Martial and Cerro Guanaco) in the vicinity of Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) showed normal results for the region in terms of chlorophyll concentration in the leaves of the dominant tree species Nothofagus antarctica, N. pumilio and N. betuloides, and soil variables such as temperature, moisture, pH, and concentration of nitrogen, sodium and potassium. Solar radiation, on the other hand, showed high values of ultraviolet over the 200–400 nm range, suggesting that the environment is extreme in terms of incoming solar radiation. The forest canopy absorbs and/or reflects a significant amount of that radiation. In separate analyses we showed that these tree species contain UV-absorbing pigments (cyanidin, delphidin, and flavonol glycosides). We submit that the rippled and glossy surface of leaves serves as a reflection/backscattering mechanism that protects their inner structure and function. The presence of krummholz (= twisted, dwarf trees) in the upper end of the forest shows the effects of an extreme environment.