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Impacts of climate changes and amplified natural disturbance on global ecosystems

September 9, 2021

Natural disturbances maintain biological diversity and landscape heterogeneity and initiate ecosystem renewal and reorganization. However, the severity, frequency, and extent of many disturbances have increased substantially in recent decades as the result of anthropogenic climate change. Disturbances can be discrete, short-duration events, such as wildfires or hurricanes, or can exert persistent, cumulative stresses on an ecosystem (for example, ongoing warming of ocean or land surface temperatures). Landscape and ecosystem impacts can occur from a single disturbance, from several disturbances acting independently, or from the interactions of multiple, linked disturbances. Key, climate-related disturbances affecting global biomes and ecosystems include shifting temperature and hydrologic regimes (for example, warming surface temperatures and increasing aridity), increased frequency and magnitude of extreme events such as heatwaves, severe droughts, storms, and hurricanes, warming-induced permafrost thaw, and heightened wildfire activity and insect-caused tree mortality. For ecosystems and landscapes, the consequences of climate-amplified disturbance include forced poleward and upward movement of plant and animal species, widespread tree mortality and reduced forest productivity, changes in plant community structure and species distributions, reduced biodiversity, increased erosion, debris flows, wetland dynamism, declining sea ice extent, more frequent storm-driven tides and saltwater intrusion, and increased landscape flammability.

Publication Year 2021
Title Impacts of climate changes and amplified natural disturbance on global ecosystems
DOI 10.4324/9780429399480-11
Authors Rachel A. Loehman, Megan Friggens, Rosemary L. Sherriff, Alisa R. Keyser, Karin L. Riley
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70231624
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geography