Over the last several decades, disturbance has become a commonly recognized driver of the dynamics of ecological systems. Long-term ecological research is uniquely positioned to address the three challenges of disturbance:
- that events can be both positive and negative,
- that theoretically frameworks are comprehensive enough for driving empirical generality, and
- that disturbance can alter systems differently as environments change.
This interactive webinar will present a refined conceptual model for synthesizing disturbance across systems with long-term social-ecological research. We will complete the conceptual diagram for a few illustrative systems, laying the groundwork for a broader workshop at the LTER All Scientists’ Meeting. In the process, presenters will illustrate the utility of the conceptual model for building site- level understanding of disturbance outcomes, and its potential for driving insights across different types of ecosystems.
Two paragraphs, describing the case study shown:
High-energy storms including hurricanes represent a common disturbance to the FCE LTER. Storms impact social-ecological ecosystems through sustained high winds, marine water surges and extreme rainfall and associated flooding. In the Everglades, these drivers defoliate trees and change connectivity of ecosystems to fresh and marine water supplies. Documented immediate changes in system properties include reduced primary production, increased delivery of the limiting nutrient, phosphorus, increased fish recruitment, increased sediment elevation through storm surge deposits, and export of soils as organic carbon through estuaries. The longer-term legacies include a lowered population age distribution of plants and animals often associated with landward recruitment, increased elevation due to the inorganic storm deposits, and increased upstream tidal transport of phosphorus. These legacies influence net ecosystem productivity, improved coastal ecosystem resilience to sea level rise, and can accelerate interior-ward invasion of forests.
High-energy storms also influence urban and agricultural regions surrounding the Everglades and their interaction through flood water management. Storms can stimulate emergency water delivery actions to move water from developed lands into the interior of the Everglades. These actions are made possible through governance and infrastructure changes, with increasing recognition of the ecosystem services provided by coastal mangrove forests. These forests improve sediment, carbon, nutrient and water capture and can attenuate surge, improving resilience of coastal urban and agricultural systems. These social-ecological feedbacks to tropical storms are essential to building capacity of coastal ecosystems to sustain in the face of rapid sea level acceleration.
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