Canadian Forest Service Publications

Can forest management based on natural disturbances maintain ecological resilience? 2006. Drever, C.R.; Peterson, G.; Messier, C.; Bergeron, Y.; Flannigan, M.D. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 36: 2285 - 2299.

Year: 2006

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 28569

Language: English

Availability: Order paper copy (free)

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Given the increasingly global stresses on forests, many ecologists argue that managers must maintain ecological resilience: the capacity of ecosystems to absorb disturbances without undergoing fundamental change. In this review we ask: Can the emerging paradigm of natural-disturbance-based management (NDBM) maintain ecological resilience in managed forests? Applying resilience theory requires careful articulation of the ecosystem state under consideration, the disturbances and stresses that affect the persistence of possible alternative states, and the spatial and temporal scales of management relevance. Implementing NDBM while maintaining resilience means recognizing that (i) biodiversity is important for long-term ecosystem persistence, (ii) natural disturbances play a critical role as a generator of structural and compositional heterogeneity at multiple scales, and (iii) traditional management tends to produce forests more homogeneous than those disturbed naturally and increases the likelihood of unexpected catastrophic change by constraining variation of key environmental processes. NDBM may maintain resilience if silvicultural strategies retain the structures and processes that perpetuate desired states while reducing those that enhance resilience of undesirable states. Such strategies require an understanding of harvesting impacts on slow ecosystem processes, such as seed-bank or nutrient dynamics, which in the long term can lead to ecological surprises by altering the forest's capacity to reorganize after disturbance.