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Reconstructing disturbances and their biogeochemical consequences over multiple timescales

February 4, 2014

Ongoing changes in disturbance regimes are predicted to cause acute changes in ecosystem structure and function in the coming decades, but many aspects of these predictions are uncertain. A key challenge is to improve the predictability of postdisturbance biogeochemical trajectories at the ecosystem level. Ecosystem ecologists and paleoecologists have generated complementary data sets about disturbance (type, severity, frequency) and ecosystem response (net primary productivity, nutrient cycling) spanning decadal to millennial timescales. Here, we take the first steps toward a full integration of these data sets by reviewing how disturbances are reconstructed using dendrochronological and sedimentary archives and by summarizing the conceptual frameworks for carbon, nitrogen, and hydrologic responses to disturbances. Key research priorities include further development of paleoecological techniques that reconstruct both disturbances and terrestrial ecosystem dynamics. In addition, mechanistic detail from disturbance experiments, long-term observations, and chronosequences can help increase the understanding of ecosystem resilience.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Reconstructing disturbances and their biogeochemical consequences over multiple timescales
DOI 10.1093/biosci/bit017
Authors Kendra K. McLauchlan, Philip E. Higuera, Daniel G. Gavin, Steven S. Perakis, Michelle C. Mack, Heather Alexander, John Battles, Franco Biondi, Brian Buma, Daniele Colombaroli, Sara K. Enders, Daniel R. Engstrom, Feng Sheng Hu, Jennifer R. Marlon, John Marshall, Matt McGlone, Jesse L. Morris, Lucas E. Nave, Bryan Shuman, Erica A.H. Smithwick, Dunia H. Urrego, David A. Wardle, Christopher J. Williams, Joseph J. Williams
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title BioScience
Series Number
Index ID 70046873
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center