Disturbance regimes of Mesoamerican forests

Authors: Kenneth Young*, University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Biogeography
Keywords: Biogeography, Conservation, Mesoamerica
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 9
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Forests change spatially along socioenvironmental gradients, responding in their stature, species composition, and regeneration dynamics to biophysical controls on tree growth, reproduction, and mortality, and to social processes affecting land use and tenure. A disturbance regime approach for understanding forest dynamism allows for interconnecting information about these influences and their interactions, and as a result generating data on current forest structure and composition that can be extended into the past to reconstruct past landscapes, or into the future in scenarios of likely change. Thomas Veblen has been a pioneer in the development of these approaches, from his first studies in the 1970s of the forests of Totonicapán in Guatemala, to many other sites in North America and the southern Hemisphere. He has personified ways to develop comparative frameworks for understanding the past, present, and future of forests. His legacy from research in Mesoamerica endures for example with his pioneering research on shifting dominance in the pine-oak forests, the biogeography of high elevation fir forests, and the influence of Mayan governance on the persistence and conservation of forested highlands. The new climate norms now affecting types of disturbances, their severity and return intervals, and ties to human settlements are of all of general societal concern, and are perhaps best studied using the disturbance regime approach advanced by Thomas Veblen.

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