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Book Chapter

Late Quaternary environments and palaeoclimate

By
Claudio Latorre (coordinator)
Claudio Latorre (coordinator)
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Patricio I. Moreno
Patricio I. Moreno
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Gabriel Vargas
Gabriel Vargas
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Antonio Maldonado
Antonio Maldonado
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Rodrigo Villa-Martínez
Rodrigo Villa-Martínez
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Juan J. Armesto
Juan J. Armesto
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Carolina Villagrán
Carolina Villagrán
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Mario Pino
Mario Pino
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Lautaro Núñez
Lautaro Núñez
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Martin Grosjean
Martin Grosjean
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Published:
January 01, 2007

Abstract

Chile possesses one of the most pronounced climate gradients in the world, extending from the world’s driest desert in the northern part of the country, where precipitation is measured in millimetres per decade, down to the channel and fiords region in southern Patagonia where rainfall can average up to 7 m per year or more. In contrast, thermal buffering by the Pacific Ocean contributes to ameliorating extreme temperatures, generating a latitudinal temperature gradient that is considerably less pronounced than across similar latitudinal ranges in other parts of the world (Miller 1976; Axelrod et al. 1991). Coupled with millions of years of geographic isolation induced by the massive barrier imposed by the Andean Cordillera, Chile today possesses a highly endemic fauna and flora whose distribution is tightly linked to these gradients (Arroyo et al. 1996; Hinojosa & Villagrán 1997).

Considering its geographic position and tectonic setting, it is hence not surprising that the geomorphology of Chile over the last two million years or so, i.e. the ‘Quaternary’ (see Gradstein et al. 2004), has been strongly influenced by climate along this broad latitudinal gradient. Whereas ancient landscapes preserved for millions of years exist in the hyperarid Atacama, repeatedly glaciated landscapes predominate in southern Chile. Elucidating the precise chronology of these Quaternary events affecting the western margin of southern South America is of great relevance to a number of scientific disciplines including ecology, palaeo-climatology, evolutionary biology, population genetics, phylogeography, biogeography and conservation.

Consequently, records of past climate and

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Geology of Series

The Geology of Chile

Teresa Moreno
Teresa Moreno
Earth Sciences Institute ‘Jaume Almera’, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Barcelona, Spain
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Wes Gibbons
Wes Gibbons
AP 23075, Barcelona, Spain
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
9781862393936
Publication date:
January 01, 2007

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