PROGRAM TITLE:  	Disturbance Ecology (DISTURB)
ACTIVITY STREAM:	Process/Observation/Modeling/Assessment
SCIENCE ELEMENT:	Ecological System/Biogeochemical Dynamics
 
 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Forest Service Global Change Research Program (FSGCRP)

DESCRIPTION:    The Forest Service Program includes the world's pre-
eminent efforts to understand and predict the occurrence and ecology of 
natural  disturbance agents; including fire, insects and disease, and storms.  
Continuing research is improving the understanding of disturbance 
climatology,  disturbance ecology, and biogeochemistry.  On the regional to 
global scales,  natural disturbances substantially affect the rate of ecosystem 
conversion and  the rate of carbon emissions to the atmosphere; so the 
management of  disturbance is a high-priority policy area for mitigation and 
adaptation  strategies.
 
 Predicting disturbance frequency is required to predict changes in ecosystem  
distribution because all ecosystems are adapted to a more-or-less specific  
disturbance regime.  The rate of change in ecosystems and their distribution 
is also controlled by the disturbance regimes; so the transient response of  
ecosystems cannot be predicted without predicting the effect of disturbance.  
Anticipating natural disasters and changes in the atmosphere-biosphere 
carbon  balance also require improved consideration of disturbance processes.  
 
 In FY 1995 we will accelerate research to analyze changes in fuel buildup 
and fire hazard due to global change and to predict wildland fire activity and 
emissions with global change.  The forest health monitoring program will 
be expanded, and additional modeling of forest pest interactions with climate 
will be undertaken.  We will develop methods to model all types of 
disturbance changes based on Global Circulation Model outputs.
 
STAKEHOLDERS:   Important partnerships have been formed to investigate 
natural disturbances with EPA, NSF, NASA, DOI, and DOE Global Change 
Programs. International Agreements and partnership with US AID have 
created very significant Programs in Brazil, Mexico, and Russia.  Beneficiaries 
include the agencies that manage disturbance and protect resources and 
society from their impact, and the community of scientists and policymakers 
concerned with natural and human-induced changes in the global Earth 
system.
 
SHORT-TERM POLICY PAYOFFS:   Policymakers will benefit from an 
assessment of the magnitude of increases in disturbance frequency and 
severity, and from the initial attempts to predict transient ecosystem response 
to climate change that will be available in 2-3 years.  Improved estimates of 
global atmospheric emissions from forest fires and from ecosystem 
conversion will also be available in that timeframe.