Why is Natural Disturbance Important?
The structure of tropical forests is influenced by the growth and death of individual trees, and by forest disturbance events at local, landscape, and regional scales. Natural disturbances include wind, storms, fire, drought, floods, and outbreaks of insects and disease, and can vary in frequency and intensity. Disturbance and subsequent forest recovery are essential to forest functioning, and some disturbance processes are expected to increase in intensity and frequency with climate warming affecting forest carbon, water and energy fluxes.
Key processes for understanding how tropical forests are dynamically structured through disturbance and subsequent recovery include plant recruitment, competition for resources, and mortality. Plant functional traits that dictate tree resistance to stress influence tree mortality and rates of post-disturbance forest recovery. However, current models do not represent the diversity in these and other critical functional traits well, compromising projections of future forest function. To address these challenges, NGEE-Tropics focuses on advancing understanding and model representation of tropical forest dynamics under natural disturbance regimes.
NGEE-Tropics is advancing our understanding and model representation of tropical forest dynamics under natural disturbance regimes.
In Phase 1 of NGEE-Tropics, we address Natural Disturbance by:
- Testing the NGEE-Tropics ACME-FATES model against observations of tree size distributions and other data from long-term forest inventories in tropical forests
- Measuring modes of mortality across pantropical sites and enabling the NGEE-Tropics ACME-FATES model to simulate variation in mortality
- Testing and improving representation of flammability, fire spread, and vegetation mortality from burning in the NGEE-Tropics ACME-FATES model
- Enabling the NGEE-Tropics ACME-FATES model to predict variation in seed dispersal and tree recruitment.
- Measuring key functional traits and testing the ability of the NGEE-Tropics ACME-FATES model to simulate shifts in forest composition across environmental gradients