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The Nothofagus genus comprises 10 species recorded in the South American subcontinent. All are important tree-like species in the extratropical, Mediterranean, temperate and boreal forests of Chile and Argentina. This paper presents a summary of data on the phytocoenotical behaviour of these species and relates the plant communities to the measurable or inferable thermoclimatic and ombroclimatic conditions which affect them. Our aim is to update the phytosociological knowledge of the South American temperate forests and to assess their suitability as climatic bioindicators by analysing the behaviour of those species belonging to their most representative genus.