Bosque Pehuén Residency Program: Multidisciplinary Nature Research Station
2014-2019 | LabDosel

Since May 2014 the Laboratory of Biodiversity and Canopy Ecology of the Institute for Conservation, Biodiversity, and Territory of the Faculty of Forest Science of Universidad Austral of Chile has been conducting a long-term monitoring and scientific research in different ecological systems within Bosque Pehuén.

Scientists, Iván Díaz, Daniela Mellado, and Javier Godoy have been studying forestal regeneration processes through documentation of biodiversity and human exploitation in Pehuén Forest since May 2014. Their research surrounds the monitoring of the different tree species present in Pehuén Forest, organisms considered responsible for shaping all aspects of the forest including regulating its biodiversity.

Considering the tree as a broad subject of study has been one of the differentiating foci of research. In order to study the trees, the Laboratory of Biodiversity and Canopy Ecology (LabDosel) utilizes various arborist techniques to reach the highest section of the forest, the canopy. LabDosel is Chile’s first laboratory to go about conducting these studies, and Pehuén Forest has become the main site for the study of canopies in the country.

Pehuén’s ancient trees form environments that host great biodiversity. Bosque Pehuén hosted Chile’s first study of epiphytic* biodiversity (organisms that grow above the forest floor), carried out within Pehuén’s coigüe trees (Nothofagus dombeyi). Scientists recorded 17 different species of mosses thriving in their canopy. This study marked the first collection of canopy mosses native to Chile, which was donated to the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago. Other unpublished fauna records were obtained in the canopy, which evidenced that treetops are in fact permanent habitats for animals such as the lizard (Liolaemus pictus) and the chick spider (Grammostola rosea).

One of Chile’s first microclimatic studies of the canopy was also developed in Pehuén Forest. Temperature and humidity sensors were placed between zero to 24 meters high on a vertical grid throughout the forest. Results demonstrate that the canopies are more humid than previously assumed, and are in fact warmer than the forest floor. The combination of temperature and humidity in part explains the presence of biodiversity found at such heights, and reveals tree-tops as a favorable environment for epiphytic plants. More than 80% of invertebrates, more than 50% of birds, and up to 50% of vascular plants inhabit the canopy.

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Research also concerned forest regeneration. Due to the forest’s wealth of trees and thus economic potential, the property was heavily cleared in the 1970s, hence large areas of regeneration can be observed on a considerable amount of the property. This study involved the monitoring of six permanent plots on a successional gradient. Each plot marked a different degree of human intervention, from highly disturbed systems such as shrubs and grasslands to nearly pristine systems such as ancient forests.

Dead, woody debris and fallen logs were observed in different states of decomposition. The amount of debris recorded in Pehuén Forest plots is within the highest known ranges in the world. This is the habitat where the new forest trees develop. This debris, along with standing dead trees, are called biological legacies. Studies in Pehuén Forest show that the presence of these legacies in forests subjected to human intervention/ deforestation is crucial for the presence of birds. Thus, these studies suggest a new model for native forest management, one that would favor regeneration.

Biodiversity monitoring accompanied by laboratory simulations catalyzed the new zoning of Pehuén Forest in 2016, one which would limit development, protect, and restore each of the forest’s hectares. This conservation model can be applied to other parks, estates, and/or territories that require protection and restoration.

Here to see publications.

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