A Framework for Quantifying Resilience to Forest Disturbance

Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
By: , and 



(Bradford) The concept of ecological resilience is an invaluable tool to assess the risk of state transitions and predict the impact of management on an ecosystem’s response to future disturbances. However, resilience is difficult to quantify and the factors contributing to resilience are often unknown in systems subject to multiple disturbances. We present a framework to assess the possibility of ponderosa pine and dry mixed conifer forests to be resilient to future disturbance by combining indicators of resistance to fire, insect, and drought disturbances using data from the Rio Tusas-Lower San Antonio landscape in northern New Mexico. On average, the dry mixed conifer forests received a higher score for potential resilience than the ponderosa pine (5.24 and 4.07, respectively, out of nine possible points). Canopy bulk density was the most important driver of the overall score in the dry mixed conifer type. In the ponderosa pine type, overall basal area and canopy bulk density were the strongest drivers of the overall score. These indicators have the greatest impact on the resilience score and provide the most effective targets for management to increase the possibility of resilience in these forest types. We validated the model in both forest types by comparing individual stands to an ‘ideal’ score for a stand that is within the historic range of variation (HRV) and confirmed that stands outside of HRV had a low possibility of resilience and stands that had received restoration-based treatments were more likely to be resilient. Our results provide evidence that the changes to forest structure and species composition that have occurred since the onset of fire exclusion have degraded the potential of these forest types to be resilient to future fire, insect, and drought-related disturbances. By modifying disturbances and resilience indicator thresholds this model can be applied to assess resilience across various regions and ecosystem types.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A framework for quantifying resilience to forest disturbance
Series title Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
DOI 10.3389/ffgc.2019.00056
Volume 2
Issue 56
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Frontiers
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 14 p.