- Agriculture, Forestry & Soils
- Agriculture, forestry, and soils - general
- Fire and disturbance ecology
Fire and disturbance ecology
Walsh, Megan Department of Geography, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington.
Last reviewed:June 2019
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- Fire behavior
- Fire regimes
- Fire's abiotic effects
- Fire's biotic effects
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The branch of ecology that studies the environmental changes that occur in ecosystems in relation to fire. Disturbance is a major environmental influence in many of Earth's ecosystems. Vital to the healthy functioning of forests, savannas, shrublands, and grasslands, disturbance provides both temporal and spatial variability within an ecosystem, often leading to greater levels of biodiversity (Fig. 1). A natural disturbance, which can be abiotic (such as a fire, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, tropical cyclone, windstorm, snow or debris avalanche, ice storm, etc.) or biotic (such as an insect and pathogen outbreak, animal herbivory, predation, etc.), typically occurs during a relatively discrete period of time and changes the structure, composition, and/or functioning of an ecosystem. Disturbances and their effects vary widely and are described using three scales: a temporal scale (how long a disturbance persists and how often it reoccurs), a spatial scale (how much geographic area is affected by a disturbance), and a magnitude scale (how intense a disturbance is, and as a result, how severe and long-lasting the impacts are on the landscape). See also: Ecology; Ecosystem; Forest; Grassland ecosystem; Herbivory; Savanna; Terrestrial ecosystem
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