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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Forest structural diversity and its spatiotemporal variability are constrained by environmental and biological factors, including species pools, climate, land-use history, and legacies of disturbance regimes. These factors influence forest responses to disturbances and their interactions with structural diversity, potentially creating structurally mediated emergent properties at local to continental spatial scales and over evolutionary time. Here, we present a conceptual framework for exploring the emergent properties that arise from interactions between forest structural diversity and disturbances. We synthesize and present definitions for key terms, including emergent property, disturbance, and resilience, and highlight various types and examples of emergent properties, such as (1) interactions with species composition, (2) interactions with disturbance frequency and intensity, and (3) evolutionary changes to communities. Although emergent properties in forest ecosystems remain poorly understood, we describe a foundation for study and applied management of forest structural diversity to enhance forest restoration and resilience.

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© 2023 The Authors. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Ecological Society of America. Publisher’s version of record:

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Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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