Recent Changes in Climate and Forest Ecosystems

  • David L. Peterson
  • Kailey W. Marcinkowski
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 57)


In recent decades, gradual warming over the long term has been punctuated by droughts that facilitate widespread ecological disturbances. Although no single event can be attributed to climate change, it is reasonable to infer that a permanently warmer climate will escalate disturbances, causing a much faster change in ecosystem structure and function than a gradual increase in warming. Various species of pine beetles have spread across large land areas in Alaska, the western United States, and southern United States, in some cases attacking tree species that have not experienced previous outbreaks. Area burned by wildfire has been especially high during the 2000s. A reduction in the quantity and persistence of snow in mountainous regions is affecting the hydrology of forest ecosystems and downstream water supply. Interactions of multiple disturbances and stressors may result in new combinations of species and ecosystem conditions for which there is no precedent in historical or paleoecological records. Rapid shifts in climate and disturbance may strain both the resilience of forest ecosystems and the capacity of social systems and management institutions. In the future, shifting the management focus from restoring systems to building resilience will be a more viable strategy for retaining key ecological functions and ecosystem services.


Forest Ecosystem Pacific Decadal Oscillation Snow Water Equivalent Fire Severity Fire Suppression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pacific Northwest Research StationU.S. Forest ServiceSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Northern Institute of Applied Climate ScienceMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA

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