, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 23–30 | Cite as

Losing Legacies, Ecological Release, and Transient Responses: Key Challenges for the Future of Northern Ecosystem Science

  • Merritt R. TuretskyEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Baltzer
  • Jill F. Johnstone
  • Michelle C. Mack
  • Kevin McCann
  • Edward A. G. Schuur
20th Anniversary Paper


Northern ecosystem processes play out across scales that are rare elsewhere on contemporary earth: large ranging predator–prey systems are still operational, invasive species are rare, and large-scale natural disturbances occur extensively. Disturbances in the far north affect huge areas of land and are difficult to control or manage. Historically, disturbance patterns and processes ranging across a number of spatio-temporal scales have played an important role in the resilience of northern ecosystems. However, due to interactions with a warming climate, these disturbances are now erasing key legacies of the last millennia of ecosystem processes. Building on the concepts of legacies and cross-scale interactions, we highlight several general conceptual issues that represent key challenges for the future of northern ecosystem science, but that also have relevance to other biomes.


arctic boreal succession disturbance permafrost wildfire carbon diversity trophic interactions niche 



The ideas presented here have benefited from discussions with many colleagues as well as funding programs that have promoted collaborative research in the north, including NASA’s Terrestrial Ecosystems ABoVE program, the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Environment and Natural Resources division, the NSERC Discovery program, the Bonanza Creek LTER program supported by the NSF and the U.S. Forest Service, the Changing Cold Regions Network support by NSERC, the Permafrost Carbon Network, and SEARCH’s Permafrost Action Team.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Merritt R. Turetsky
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer L. Baltzer
    • 2
  • Jill F. Johnstone
    • 3
  • Michelle C. Mack
    • 4
  • Kevin McCann
    • 1
  • Edward A. G. Schuur
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentWilfrid Laurier UniversityWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  4. 4.Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, and Department of Biological SciencesNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA

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