Impacts of solar ultraviolet-B radiation on terrestrial ecosystems of Tierra del Fuego (southern Argentina). An overview of recent progress

Carlos L. Ballaré, M. Cecilia Rousseaux, Peter S. Searles, Johann G. Zaller, Carla V. Giordano, T. Matthew Robson, Martyn M. Caldwell, Osvaldo E. Sala, Ana L. Scopel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Scopus citations


The southern part of Tierra del Fuego, in the southernmost tip of South America, is covered by dense Nothofagus spp. forests and Sphagnum-dominated peat bogs, which are subjected to the influence of ozone depletion and to increased levels of solar ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B). Over the last 5 years we have studied some of the biological impacts of solar UV-B on natural ecosystems of this region. We have addressed two general problems: (i) do the fluctuations in UV-B levels under the influence of the Antarctic ozone 'hole' have any measurable biological impact, and (ii) what are the long-term effects of solar (ambient) UV-B on the Tierra del Fuego ecosystems? In this paper, we provide an overview of the progress made during the first 4 years of the project. We highlight and discuss the following results: (1) ambient UV-B has subtle but significant inhibitory effects on the growth of herbaceous and graminoid species of this region (growth reduction ≤12%), whereas no consistent inhibitory effects could be detected in woody perennials; (2) in the species investigated in greatest detail, Gunnera magellanica, the inhibitory effect of solar UV-B is accompanied by increased levels of DNA damage in leaf tissue, and the DNA damage density in the early spring is clearly correlated with the dose of weighted UV-B measured at ground level; (3) the herbaceous species investigated thus far show little or no acclimation responses to ambient UV-B such as increased sunscreen levels and DNA repair capacity; and (4) ambient UV-B has significant effects on heterotrophic organisms, included marked inhibitory effects on insect herbivory. The results from the experiments summarized in this review clearly indicate that UV-B influences several potentially important processes and ecological interactions in the terrestrial ecosystems of Tierra del Fuego.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA damage
  • Gunnera magellanica
  • Herbivory
  • Nothofagus
  • Ozone hole
  • Sphagnum
  • Tierra del Fuego
  • UV-B

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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