Mires and mire types of Peninsula Mitre, Tiera del Fuego, Argentina
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonMires and Peat. 2014, 14 (01), .
In 2007, a field visit by members of the International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG) to the Atlantic coast of Peninsula Mitre (the easternmost part of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, Argentina) gathered information on mire diversity in this remote wild area with largely pristine mires. Our expedition showed that Peninsula Mitre hosts a wide variety of habitats across two exciting ecological gradients: (i) a regional west–east gradient from Sphagnum magellanicum dominated mires in the west to Astelia pumila dominated mires in the east; and (ii) a gradient from extremely acid to extremely carbonate rich mire types induced by local bedrock. The large variety of hydromorphological mire types comprises raised bogs, blanket bogs, sloping fens, string fens, flat fens and calcareous spring fens. In the Atlantic coastal area, the abundance of Sphagnum magellanicum in the ombrogenic systems decreases conspicuously from west to east with the species being almost absent in the east. However, the fossil record shows thick layers of Sphagnum peat close beneath mire surfaces everywhere, indicating that substantial hydrological and ecological changes have taken place in the recent past. We observed large scale erosion in the mires along the Atlantic coast. Locally, well-developed fen systems are present, including calcareous spring fens with active travertine (tufa) deposition. The regional vegetation can be regarded as a parallel to that of boreal oceanic regions in the northern hemisphere. The mires and peatlands of the peninsula are of global significance. They are impressive, peculiar, extensive and largely pristine mires in a globally very rare climatic and biogeographical context embedded in a landscape with significant natural dynamics. The damaging impact of free-roaming cattle on the mires and upland vegetation is, however, conspicuous and needs urgent attention. Peninsula Mitre deserves the highest possible protection, e.g. as a provincial protected area and a World Heritage Site.