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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Globally consistent climate sensitivity of natural disturbances across boreal and temperate forest ecosystems

Seidl, Rupert; Honkaniemi, Juha; Aakala, Tuomas; Aleinikov, Alexey; Angelstam, Per; Bouchard, Mathieu; Boulanger, Yan; Burton, Philip J.; De Grandpre, Louis; Gauthier, Sylvie; Hansen, Winslow D.; Jepsen, Jane U.; Jogiste, Kalev; Kneeshaw, Daniel D.; Kuuluvainen, Timo; Lisitsyna, Olga; Makoto, Kobayashi; Mori, Akira S.; Pureswaran, Deepa S.; Shorohova, Ekaterina;
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Disturbance regimes are changing in forests across the world in response to global climate change. Despite the profound impacts of disturbances on ecosystem services and biodiversity, assessments of disturbances at the global scale remain scarce. Here, we analyzed natural disturbances in boreal and temperate forest ecosystems for the period 2001-2014, aiming to 1) quantify their within- and between-biome variation and 2) compare the climate sensitivity of disturbances across biomes. We studied 103 unmanaged forest landscapes with a total land area of 28.2 x 10(6) ha, distributed across five continents. A consistent and comprehensive quantification of disturbances was derived by combining satellite-based disturbance maps with local expert knowledge of disturbance agents. We used Gaussian finite mixture models to identify clusters of landscapes with similar disturbance activity as indicated by the percent forest area disturbed as well as the size, edge density and perimeter-area-ratio of disturbed patches. The climate sensitivity of disturbances was analyzed using Bayesian generalized linear mixed effect models and a globally consistent climate dataset. Within-biome variation in natural disturbances was high in both boreal and temperate biomes, and disturbance patterns did not vary systematically with latitude or biome. The emergent clusters of disturbance activity in the boreal zone were similar to those in the temperate zone, but boreal landscapes were more likely to experience high disturbance activity than their temperate counterparts. Across both biomes high disturbance activity was particularly associated with wildfire, and was consistently linked to years with warmer and drier than average conditions. Natural disturbances are a key driver of variability in boreal and temperate forest ecosystems, with high similarity in the disturbance patterns between both biomes. The universally high climate sensitivity of disturbances across boreal and temperate ecosystems indicates that future climate change could substantially increase disturbance activity.


boreal forest; climate variability; disturbance regimes; remote sensing; spatial patterns; temperate forest

Published in

2020, volume: 43, number: 7, pages: 967-978
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Seidl, Rupert
Univ Nat Resources and Life Sci BOKU Vienna
Honkaniemi, Juha
Univ Nat Resources and Life Sci BOKU Vienna
Aakala, Tuomas
Univ Helsinki
Aleinikov, Alexey
Russian Acad Sci
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management
Bouchard, Mathieu
Quebec Minist Nat Resources
Boulanger, Yan
Nat Resources Canada
Burton, Philip J.
Univ Northern British Columbia
De Grandpre, Louis
Nat Resources Canada
Gauthier, Sylvie
Nat Resources Canada
Hansen, Winslow D.
Columbia Univ
Jepsen, Jane U.
Norwegian Inst Nat Res
Jogiste, Kalev
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Kneeshaw, Daniel D.
Univ Quebec Montreal
Kuuluvainen, Timo
Univ Helsinki
Lisitsyna, Olga
Tallinn Univ Technol
Makoto, Kobayashi
Hokkaido Univ
Mori, Akira S.
No organisation
Pureswaran, Deepa S.
Nat Resources Canada
Shorohova, Ekaterina
Russian Acad Sci
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UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science

Publication Identifiers


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