Crown Structure and Biodiversity in Fltzroya cupressoides, the Giant Conifers of Alerce Andino National Park, Chile


Fitzroya cupressoides

How to Cite

Clement, J. P., Moffett, M. W., Shaw, D. C., Lara, A., Alarçon, D., & Larrain, O. L. (2001). Crown Structure and Biodiversity in Fltzroya cupressoides, the Giant Conifers of Alerce Andino National Park, Chile. Selbyana, 22(1), 76–88. Retrieved from


Fitzroya cupressoides, or alerce, a massive conifer that occurs in southern Chile and southwestern Argentina, is known for exceptional longevity—a 3622-year crossdated chronology established the alerce as the second longest-living tree after California's Pinus longaeva. Despite the critical ecological significance and endangered status of the alerce, remarkably little is known about the crown habitat in these trees, including their plant and insect communities. In a preliminary assessment of alerce crown structure and plant and arthropod diversity, seven alerce individuals were climbed and surveyed in January 1998. The trunk and crown structure of each tree were measured and lianas, epiphytes, and arthropods were sampled in a series of height-stratified plots. Filmy ferns were the dominant vascular epiphytes while bryophytes, lichens, and three species of lianas were also abundant in well-developed communities. Several trees and shrubs were also discovered growing epiphytically in the alerce crowns. Arthropod diversity and abundance were very low, even compared with conifers from climatically similar habitats in the United States Pacific Northwest. Herbivory was negligible—less than 1% in all foliage samples.


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