Disturbance Distance: quantifying forests’ vulnerability to disturbance under current and future conditions
Dolan, Katelyn A
Hurtt, George C
Flanagan, Steve A
Fisk, Justin P
Page, Yannik Le
Masek, Jeffrey G
Katelyn A Dolan et al 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 114015; https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa8ea9
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Disturbances, both natural and anthropogenic, are critical determinants of forest structure, function, and distribution. The vulnerability of forests to potential changes in disturbance rates remains largely unknown. Here, we developed a framework for quantifying and mapping the vulnerability of forests to changes in disturbance rates. By comparing recent estimates of observed forest disturbance rates over a sample of contiguous US forests to modeled rates of disturbance resulting in forest loss, a novel index of vulnerability, Disturbance Distance, was produced. Sample results indicate that 20% of current US forestland could be lost if disturbance rates were to double, with southwestern forests showing highest vulnerability. Under a future climate scenario, the majority of US forests showed capabilities of withstanding higher rates of disturbance then under the current climate scenario, which may buffer some impacts of intensified forest disturbance.
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