In the Lluta Valley, northern Chile, climate is hyperarid and vegetation is restricted to the valley floors and lowermost footslopes. Fossil tree trunks and leaves of predominantly Escallonia angustifolia, however, are abundant up to ∼15m above the present valley floor, where they are intercalated with slope deposits, reflecting higher water levels in the past. A total of 17 samples have been radiocarbon dated, yielding ages between 38 and 15k cal a BP. The youngest ages of 15.4k cal a BP are interpreted as reflecting the beginning of river incision and lowering of the valley floor, impeding the further growth of trees at higher parts of the slopes. The most plausible scenario for this observation is intensified river incision after 15.4k cal a BP due to increased stream power and runoff from the Río Lluta headwaters in the Western Cordillera and Altiplano corresponding to the highstand of the Tauca and Central Andean Pluvial Event (CAPE) wet phase.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)