Changing Disturbance Regimes, Ecological Memory, and Forest Resilience

Image Credit: Jill Johnstone BNZ LTER

Each forest reflects a legacy of past disturbances—from the literal detritus left behind a storm or fire to the prominence of particular species traits that enable species to bounce back after a specific type of disturbance. Shifts in the frequency, severity, timing, and type of disturbances—ever more common due to climate change—can reduce the effectiveness of these legacies as a means of resilience. Forests in these instances find themselves maladapted, and future disturbances may provoke system transitions. By identifying which legacies support resilience, scientists can better anticipate when forests will remain resilient and when shifting disturbances may trigger abrupt ecosystem changes.


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