About this Research Topic
Disturbances, whether abiotic or biotic in nature, are integral and necessary components of forest ecosystems. However, anthropogenic pressures have contributed to the erosion of forest ecosystem resilience in numerous ways. This has occurred frequently to a degree that the tipping point has been breached, causing devastating consequences across landscapes, countries and even continents. As an example, owing to the scale of pandemic destruction, Dutch Elm Disease and Chestnut Blight, along with White Pine Blister Rust, are, so far, among the most catastrophic biotic disturbances in forest. The current amount of conifer mortality due to bark beetle outbreaks in the northern hemisphere forests is historically unprecedented. The list of devastating disturbances is long and novel drivers will keep arising in the globalized world due to ongoing climate change. Given that experience so far tells that it is less costly to conserve nature than it is to restore it, it is imperative we learn from experience to protect forests now.
Our future relies on maintaining the ecosystem services provided by forests. The ongoing transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a biobased economy is driven by the need to combat climate change, to protect the environment and to increase sustainability. This means we aim to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. When governmental roadmaps towards more carbon-neutral economies are drafted, the focus, concerning forests, is often only on the increase of forested areas and management practices that facilitate forest growth. The underlying assumption is that forests are healthy and in different phases of growth, a demography that allows the balance needed between carbon sequestration and a continuous flow of the biogenic material needed. However, pest and pathogen outbreaks, as history has shown, can severely disrupt this state within forests.
In this Research Topic, we welcome critical reviews, mini-reviews, opinion, and perspective articles that address how the underlying ecological, societal and institutional drivers have contributed to the rise and scale of specific disturbances. We would like to include critical evaluations of laws and regulations and the adaptation/mitigation of these disturbances at intergovernmental, national, regional, or local levels. We hope to highlight assessments of currently implemented strategies considering the lessons learned from past pandemic crises. These should examine the extent to which these solutions enhance the resilience of ecosystems and species affected by past drivers. Finally, we hope to outline management and policy options that would be needed to successfully prevent and/or to circumvent future pandemic crises.
Keywords: Biotic, Climate Change, Disturbance, Resilience, Socio-ecology
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