Fluvial Perturbance in the Western Amazon Basin: Regulation by Long-Term Sub-Andean Tectonics

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Science  04 Dec 1987:
Vol. 238, Issue 4832, pp. 1398-1401
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4832.1398


Haffer's refuge theory proposes that during the arid climatic phases of the late Pleistocene, tropical lowland forests of Amazonia were reduced to isolated patches contributing to the high species richness of the present-day forest. The theory was developed because no obvious historic or modern geomorphic isolation barriers were recorded in Amazonia. Analyses of radar images combined with stratigraphical data show that in the basinal forelands of the tectonically active Andes the geological setting causes long-term fluvial perturbance. This leads to a temporally structured highly complex mosaic of fossil and present floodplains. These dynamics have been present with varying activity and geographic range during the Tertiary and Quaternary, providing site-turnover that has not been recognized by the biogeographic tradition of the Amazon basin.

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