Reconstructing Disturbances and Their Biogeochemical Consequences over Multiple Timescales

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. SmithwickDunia. H. Urrego, David A. Wardle, Christopher J. Williams, J. J. Williams

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-116
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 02 Feb 2014


  • ecosystem ecology
  • disturbance
  • fire regime
  • nitrogen cycling
  • resilience


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