Climate change and disturbance regimes

Natural disturbances such as fires, floods and insect outbreaks shape many landscapes. Climate change is leading to larger, more severe and more frequent disturbances throughout the world because many disturbances are driven, at least in part, by climate. We have long focused on the causes and consequences of natural disturbances, and our current work emphasizes change in climate and disturbance regimes. Ecosystems are expected to change profoundly in the decades ahead, and disturbances are often the catalysts of those changes.

Our research group has both led and contributed to conceptual syntheses that have addressed key issues, including ecological effects of large, infrequent disturbances; consequences of changing disturbance regimes for forest resilience; the importance of disturbance legacies; causes and effects of abrupt change in ecological systems; mechanisms that constrain postfire forest recovery; and how compound disturbance can change forest recovery pathways. We enjoy building from our site-based research to diagnose changes that are happening now and to anticipate how ecosystems and landscapes will change in the decades ahead.

(From Johnstone et al. 2016)

Explore more

NRFSN Research Brief: What makes for a resilient landscape?

Winslow and Monica in PNAS News: Foreseeing fires

Sample recent + classic publications

(Please visit our publications page for PDFs) 

Gill, N. S., M. G. Turner, C. D. Brown, S. I Glassman, S. L. Haire, W. D. Hansen, E. R. Pansing, S. B. St. Clair, and D. F. Tomback. 2022. Limitations to propagule dispersal will constrain post-fire recovery of plants and fungi in many western coniferous forests. BioScience, biab139.

Hoecker, T. J., and M. G. Turner. 2022. A short-interval reburn catalyzes departures from historical structure and composition in a mesic mixed-conifer forest. Forest Ecology and Management 504:1-12.

McDowell, N. G., C. D. Allen, K. Anderson-Teixeira, B. H. Aukema, B. Bond-Lamberty, J. S. Clark, M. Dietze, C. Grossiord, A. Hanbury-Brown, R. B. Jackson, D. J. Johnson, L. Kueppers, J. W. Lichstein, K. Ogle, B. Poulter, R. Seidl, M. G. Turner, M. Uriarte, A. P. Walker, and C. Xu. 2020. Pervasive shifts in forest dynamics in a changing world. Science 368:1-10

Albrich, K., W. Rammer, M. G. Turner, Z. Ratajczak, K. H. Braziunas, W. D. Hansen, and R Seidl. 2020. Simulating forest resilience: a review. Global Ecology and Biogeography 29:2082-2096.

Turner, M. G., W. J. Calder, G. S. Cumming, T. P. Hughes, A. Jentsch, S. L. LaDeau, T. M. Lenton, B. N Shuman, M. R. Turetsky, Z. Ratajczak, J. W. Williams, A. P. Williams, and S. R. Carpenter. 2020. Climate change, ecosystems, and abrupt change: science priorities. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 375:20190105.

Ratajczak, Z., S. R. Carpenter, A. R. Ives, C. J. Kucharik, T. Ramiadantsoa, M. A. Stegner, J. W. Williams, J. Zhang, and M. G. Turner. 2018. Abrupt change in ecological systems: inference and diagnosis. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 33:513-526.

Sommerfeld, A., C. Senf, B. Buma, A. W. D’Amato, T. Després, I. Díaz-Hormazábal, S. Fraver, L. E. Frelich, A. G. Gutiérrez, S. J. Hart, B. J. Harvey, H. S. He, Tom´s Hlásny, Andrés Holz, T. Kitzberger, D. Kulakowski, D. Linednmayer, A. S. Mori, Jörg Müller, J. Paritsis, G. Perry, S. Stephens, M. Svoboda, M. G. Turner, T. T. Veblen, and R. Seidl. 2018. Patterns and drivers of recent disturbances across the temperate forest biome. Nature Communications 9:4355.

Johnstone, J. F., C. D. Allen, J. F. Franklin, L. E. Frelich, B. J. Harvey, P. E. Higuera, M. C. Mack, R. K. Meentemeyer, M. R. Metz, G. L. W. Perry, T. Schoennagel, and M. G. Turner. 2016. Changing disturbance regimes, climate warming and forest resilience. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14:369-378.

Harvey, B. J., D. C. Donato and M. G. Turner. 2016. Drivers and trends in spatial patterns of burn severity in forests of the US Northern Rocky Mountains (1984-2010). Landscape Ecology 31:2367-2383.

Harvey, B. J., D. C. Donato and M. G. Turner. 2016. Burn me twice, shame on who? Interactions between successive forest fires across a temperate mountain region. Ecology 97:2272-2282.

Turner, M. G., D. C. Donato, W. D. Hansen, B. J. Harvey, W. H. Romme, and A. L. Westerling. 2016. Climate change and novel disturbance regimes in national park landscapes. Pages 77-101 In: S. R. Beissinger, D. D. Ackerly, H. Doremus, and G. Machlis, editors. Science, conservation, and national parks. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Turner, M. G., D. C. Donato and W. H. Romme. 2013. Consequences of spatial heterogeneity for ecosystem services in changing forest landscapes: priorities for future research. Landscape Ecology 28:1081-1097.

Turner, M. G. 2010. Disturbance and landscape dynamics in a changing world. Ecology 91:2833-2849.

Raffa, K. F., B. H. Aukema, B. J. Bentz, A. L. Carroll, J. A. Hicke, M. G. Turner and W. H. Romme. 2008. Cross-scale drivers of natural disturbances prone to anthropogenic amplification: the dynamics of bark beetle eruptions. BioScience 58:501-517.

Turner, M. G., W. L. Baker, C. Peterson, and R. K. Peet. 1998. Factors influencing succession: lessons from large, infrequent natural disturbances. Ecosystems 1:511-523.

Turner, M. G., V. H. Dale, and E. E. Everham, III. 1997. Fires, hurricanes and volcanoes: comparing large-scale disturbances. BioScience 47:758-768.

Turner, M. G., W. H. Romme, R. H. Gardner, R. V. O’Neill, and T. K. Kratz. 1993. A revised concept of landscape equilibrium: disturbance and stability on scaled landscapes. Landscape Ecology 8:213-227.

Turner, M. G. and W. H. Romme. 1994. Landscape dynamics in crown fire ecosystems. Landscape Ecology 9:59-77.