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Jeffery B. Cannon, Chris J. Peterson, Joseph J. O'Brien, J. Steven Brewer
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Fire Ecology

NRFSN number: 16702
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Current research on interactions between ecological disturbances emphasizes the potential for greatly enhanced ecological effects that may occur when disturbances interact. Much less attention has focused on the possibility of disturbance interactions that buffer ecological change. In this review, we discuss and classify evidence for interactions between two forest disturbances common in eastern North America—wind damage and fire—- focusing on studies where forest wind damage precedes fire. Interaction mechanisms are classified according to how they influence ecosystem resistance to and resilience from subsequent disturbances and whether interactions have synergistic or antagonistic effects. Several important generalizations emerge from this synthesis of disturbance interactions. First, buffering interactions between wind damage and fire may be more important when fire intensity is low. Second, wind–fire interactions related to changes in fuel may vary with climatic conditions, with regional differences, and with intensity or severity of individual disturbances. Third, both amplifying and buffering effects may co-occur in a spatial mosaic through a variety of interaction mechanisms. In this respect, the concept of ecosystem response to multiple disturbances parallels that of classical models of successional pathways. It is useful to conceptualize ecosystem response to compounded disturbances as a diverse collection of individual, co-occurring mechanisms of interaction rather than considering multiple disturbances to be wholly amplifying or wholly buffering. Future studies on wind–fire disturbances that explicitly examine mechanisms of interactions and the factors that govern them will aid in understanding these ecologically important and ubiquitous forest disturbances.


Cannona JB, Peterson CJ, O'Brien JJ, Brewer JS. 2017. A review and classification of interactions between forest disturbance from wind and fire. Forest Ecology and Management 406, p. 381-390.

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