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Disturbance refugia within mosaics of forest fire, drought, and insect outbreaks

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Disturbance refugia – locations that experience less severe or frequent disturbances than the surrounding landscape – provide a framework to highlight not only where and why these biological legacies persist as adjacent areas change but also the value of those legacies in sustaining biodiversity. Recent studies of disturbance refugia in forest ecosystems have focused primarily on fire, with a growing recognition of important applications to land management. Given the wide range of disturbance processes in forests, developing a broader understanding of disturbance refugia is important for scientists and land managers, particularly in the context of anthropogenic climate change. We illustrate the framework of disturbance refugia through the individual and interactive effects of three prominent forest disturbance agents: fire, drought, and insect outbreaks. We provide examples of disturbance refugia and related applications to natural resource management in western North America, demonstrate methods for characterizing refugia, identify research priorities, and discuss why a more comprehensive definition of disturbance refugia is relevant to conservation globally.
M.A. Krawchuk; G.W. Meigs; J.M. Cartwright; J.D. Coop; R. Davis; A. Holz; C. Kolden; A.J.H. Meddens
Krawchuk MA, Meigs GW, Cartwright JM, Coop JD, Davis R, Holz A, Kolden C, Meddens AJH. Disturbance refugia within mosaics of forest fire, drought, and insect outbreaks. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 2020 ;18(5).
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