Resistance, resilience or change: post-disturbance dynamics of boreal forests after insect outbreaks
Coll Mir, Lluís
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Understanding and measuring forest resistance and resilience have emerged as key priorities in ecology and management, particularly to maintain forest functioning. The analysis of the factors involved in a forest’s ability to cope with disturbances is key in identifying forest vulnerability to environmental
change. In this study, we apply a procedure based on combining pathway analyses of forest composition and structure with quantitative indices of resistance and resilience to disturbances. We applied our approach to boreal forests affected by a major spruce budworm outbreak in the province of Quebec (Canada). We aimed to identify the main patterns of forest dynamics and the environmental factors affecting these responses. To achieve this goal, we developed quantitative metrics of resistance and resilience. We then compared forests with different pre-disturbance conditions and explored the factors influencing their recovery following disturbance. We found that post-outbreak forest dynamics are determined by distinct resistance and resilience patterns according to dominant species and stand composition and structure. Black spruce forests are highly resistant to spruce budworm outbreaks, but this resistance is conditioned by the length of the defoliation period, with long outbreaks having the potential to lead the system to collapse. In contrast, balsam fir forests easily change to a different composition after outbreaks but are highly resilient when mixed with hardwood species. Overall, the severity of the disturbance and the tree species affected are the main drivers contributing to boreal forest resistance and resilience. Our procedure is valuable to understand post-disturbance dynamics of a broad range of communities and to guide management strategies focused on enhancing the resistance and resilience of the system.