Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 1081–1097 | Cite as

Consequences of spatial heterogeneity for ecosystem services in changing forest landscapes: priorities for future research

  • Monica G. Turner
  • Daniel C. Donato
  • William H. Romme
Research Article


Changes in key drivers (e.g., climate, disturbance regimes and land use) may affect the sustainability of forest landscapes and set the stage for increased tension among competing ecosystem services. We addressed two questions about a suite of supporting, regulating and provisioning ecosystem services in each of two well-studied forest landscapes in the western US: (1) How might the provision of ecosystem services change in the future given anticipated trajectories of climate, disturbance regimes, and land use? (2) What is the role of spatial heterogeneity in sustaining future ecosystem services? We determined that future changes in each region are likely to be distinct, but spatial heterogeneity (e.g., the amount and arrangement of surviving forest patches or legacy trees after disturbance) will be important in both landscapes for sustaining forest regeneration, primary production, carbon storage, natural hazard regulation, insect and pathogen regulation, timber production and wildlife habitat. The paper closes by highlighting five general priorities for future research. The science of landscape ecology has much to contribute toward understanding ecosystem services and how land management can enhance—or threaten—the sustainability of ecosystem services in changing landscapes.


Sustainability Resilience Greater Yellowstone ecosystem Pacific Northwest Climate change Pinus contorta Pseudotsuga menziesii Fire Bark beetles Land use 



The authors thank Laura Mussachio and Jianguo (Jingle) Wu for the invitation to prepare this manuscript. The authors appreciate valuable discussions with J. L. Campbell and J. B. Fontaine and comments from Brian Harvey and three anonymous reviewers that improved this manuscript. The authors acknowledge research funding from the Joint Fire Sciences Program (Project numbers 09-1-06-3, 09-3-01-47, 06-2-1-20, and 03-1-1-06) and Western Wildlands Environmental Threat Assessment Center (PNW 07-JV-11261900-076).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica G. Turner
    • 1
  • Daniel C. Donato
    • 1
  • William H. Romme
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA

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