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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR ARID RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Disturbance regimes and ecological responses across sites

Authors
item PETERS, DEBRA
item Lugo, Ariel -
item Chapin Iii, F -
item Tepley, Alan -
item Swanson, Frederick -

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 15, 2011
Publication Date: November 20, 2013
Citation: Peters, D.C., Lugo, A.E., Chapin III, F.S., Tepley, A.J., Swanson, F.J. 2013. Disturbance regimes and ecological responses across sites. In: Long-Term Trends in Ecological Systems: A Basis for Understanding Responses to Global Change. National Technical Information Service, Springfield, Virginia. Technical Bulletin Number 1931. p. 58-71.

Interpretive Summary: This chapter defines disturbance and categorized disturbance into four major classes: climatic, physical, biotic, anthropogenic. It points out that two circumstances complicate the study and understanding of the effects of disturbances on ecosystems. It presents characteristics of disturbances of each major class of disturbance. The chapter gives many examples of ecosystem responses to various types of disturbance. For climatic disturbances, ecosystem responses to hurricanes, drought, and global warming are discussed; for physical disturbances, wildfire on land and wave height in ocean; for biotic disturbance, herbivores feeding on lower trophic levels, invasive species, and a plant disease; for anthropogenic disturbance, changes in land use patterns. These long-term records of ecosystem responses to disturbance illustrate the complexity of disturbance effects. Ecosystem responses are influenced by multiple disturbances and interactions with other factors, which make it very difficult to attribute cause and effect. Clearly large-scale, multiple-site experiments are needed to further unravel the relationships between particular disturbance events and ecosystem responses.

Technical Abstract: Disturbances affect ecosystems in almost limitless ways. The effects of disturbances extend beyond the initial impacts that are usually visible to the human eye. Therefore, for many disturbances long-term data are needed to unravel their effects. This chapter first presents characteristics of disturbances for each of four major classes of disturbance: climatic, physical, biotic, and anthropogenic. It then discusses ecosystem responses by disturbance class. For climatic disturbances, ecosystem responses to hurricanes, drought, and global warming are discussed; for physical disturbances, wildfire on land and wave height in ocean; for biotic disturbance, herbivores feeding on lower trophic levels, invasive species, and a plant disease; for anthropogenic disturbance, changes in land use patterns. These long-term records of ecosystem responses to disturbance illustrate the complexity of disturbance effects. Ecosystem responses are influenced by multiple disturbances and interactions with other factors, which make it very difficult to attribute cause and effect. Clearly large-scale, multiple-site experiments are needed to further unravel the relationships between particular disturbance events and ecosystem responses.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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