Forests in the Anthropocene
Disturbances have shaped most terrestrial ecosystems for millennia and are natural and essential components of ecological systems. However, direct and indirect human activities during the Anthropocene have amplified disturbances globally. This amplification, coupled with increasingly unfavorable post-disturbance climatic conditions or ecosystem management that intensifies the initial disturbance, is compromising the resilience of some ecosystems, with cascading effects on Earth system function and ecosystem services. Such dynamics are especially prevalent in forests, which are one of the most important ecosystems on Earth and provide countless ecosystem services for people and nonhuman species. Although climate change and its effects are ubiquitous, they do vary spatially in their intensity, and many ecological systems are more affected by changing land use than by changing climate. Understanding the geographic variation in relationships and feedbacks among climate, vegetation, disturbances, regeneration, and human activity is necessary for developing management strategies that will promote forest resilience (i.e., facilitate ecosystems tolerating and recovering from novel or intensified perturbations without shifting to alternative states controlled by different processes). Successful management strategies will vary geographically depending on the degree of departure from the ecological dynamics that preceded the Anthropocene and the spatial variability in drivers of change. As global environmental change accelerates, conservation areas, and the species and ecosystem services that rely on them, are particularly vulnerable. Where disturbances increase, expanding the size of protected areas and minimizing secondary anthropogenic disturbances are likely to be the only ways to maintain the minimum dynamic area that will cultivate adequate resilience.
Annals of the American Association of Geographers
Guz, Jaclyn and Kulakowski, Dominik, "Forests in the Anthropocene" (2020). Geography. 268.