Integration of the study of natural and anthropogenic disturbances using severity gradients



Disturbance is an integral part of every ecosystem, but humans are altering disturbance regimes in fundamental ways that can alter outcomes for ecosystem structure and function. Fortunately, advances in understanding ecosystem responses to natural disturbances can address the ecological consequences of the novel suite of disturbances now created by humans. Complex interactions among both natural and anthropogenic disturbances at many overlapping spatial and temporal scales can be examined across severity gradients. The gradient approach applies ecological tools to differential conditions of stability and fertility, degrees of biological legacy and rates of successional recovery and can help address modern concerns about socio-economic consequences of disturbance and the sustainability of ecosystem services.