Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Climate-induced changes in forest disturbance and vegetation

Abstract

RECENT concern over the ecological effects of future trace-gas-induced climate change has accelerated efforts to understand and quantify climate-induced vegetation change1–9. Here we discuss new and published climate-model results indicating that global warming favours increased rates of forest disturbance, as a result of weather more likely to cause forest fires (drought, wind and natural ignition sources), convective wind storms, coastal flooding and hurricanes. New sensitivity tests carried out with a vegetation model indicate that climate-induced increases in disturbance could, in turn, significantly alter the total biomass and compositional response of forests to future warming. An increase in disturbance frequency is also likely to increase the rate at which natural vegetation responds to future climate change. Our results reinforce the hypothesis6 that forests could be significantly altered by the first part of the next century. Our modelling also confirms the potential utility of selected time series of fossil pollen data for investigating the poorly understood natural patterns of century-scale climate variability.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. Bartlein, P. J., Prentice, I. C. & Webb, T. III J. Biogeog. 13, 35–57 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Webb, T. III, Bartlein, P. J. & Kutzbach, J. E. in The Geology of North America Vol. K–3 (eds Ruddiman, W. F. & Wright, H. E. Jr) 447–462 (Geol. Soc. Am., Boulder, 1987).

    Google Scholar 

  3. COHMAP Members Science 241, 1043–1052 (1988).

  4. Overpeck, J. T. & Bartlein, P. J. in US. Environmental Protection Agency Rep. EPA-230-05-89-54 Ch. 1, i-32 (US EPA, Washington DC, 1989).

  5. Solomon, A. M. Oecologia 68, 567–579 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Botkin, D. B., Nisbet, R. A. & Reynales, T. E. in US. Environmental Protection Agency Rep., EPA-230-05-89-54 Ch. 2, i-31 (US EPA, Washington DC, 1989).

  7. Pastor, J. & Post, W. M. Nature 334, 55–58 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Solomon, A. M. & West, D. C. in U.S. Department of Energy, Rep., DOE/ER-0236, 145–169 (US DoE, Washington DC, 1985).

  9. Neilsen, R. P. Science 232, 27–34 (1986).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Davis, M. B. & Botkin, D. B. Quat. Res. 23, 327–340 (1985).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Green, D. G. J. Biogeog. 9, 29–40 (1982).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Canham, C. D. & Loucks, O. L. Ecology 65, 803–809 (1984).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Pickett, S. T. A. & White, P. S. The Ecology of Natural Disturbance and Patch Dynamics (Academic, Orlando, 1985).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Schroeder, M. J. & Buck, C. C. U.S. Dept Agric. Handbk 360 (US Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1970).

    Google Scholar 

  15. Rind, D., Goldberg, R. & Ruedy, R. Clim. Change 14, 5–37 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hansen, J. et al. in Preparing for Climate Change, Proc. 2nd North American Conf. on Preparing for Climate Change (Climate Institute, Washington DC, in the press).

  17. Rind, D., Goldberg, R., Hansen, J., Rosenzweig, C. &. Ruedy, R. J. geophys. Res. (submitted).

  18. Manabe, S. & Wetherald, R. T. J. atmos. Sci. 44, 1211–1236 (1987).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Emanuel, K. A. Nature 326, 483–485 (1987).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Hobgood, J. S. & Cerveny, R. S. Nature 333, 243–245 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Winkler, M. G., Swain, A. M., & Kutzbach, J. E. Quat. Res. 25, 235–250 (1986).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Gajewski, K. Vegetatio 68, 179–190 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Clark, J. S. Nature 334, 233–235 (1988).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Overpeck, J., Rind, D. & Goldberg, R. Climate-induced changes in forest disturbance and vegetation. Nature 343, 51–53 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1038/343051a0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/343051a0

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing