Impacts of Natural Disturbance on Soil Carbon Dynamics in Forest Ecosystems
This chapter examines the importance of natural disturbance in shaping forest landscapes and the relationship between aboveground impacts and mineral soil carbon (C) dynamics. The effects of disturbance regimes in structuring forest communities took on greater significance with further study of succession in terrestrial ecosystems. Soil heating during fire in forest ecosystems varies widely between low-severity surface fires to high-severity crown fires. Within the United States, fire and insect suppression have affected disturbance regimes so greatly that the state of forest ecosystems is outside their range of natural variability. Conservation of biodiversity has become important, which includes not only preserving individual species but also preserving the diverse mosaic of forest communities and those ecosystem processes that make these communities unique. More research is needed to definitively characterize the short- and long-term effects of disturbance on forest-soil C and to identify opportunities to minimize C loss, or maximize C sequestration, in disturbance-driven ecosystems.