How capable are forests in bouncing back from disturbances? Are they becoming less resilient during this time of rapid environmental change? Can forests deal with the changes, or are they approaching critical thresholds (i.e., tipping points) that will result in a permanent shift towards a different ecosystem state? These critical questions in forest research have increasingly been receiving global attention.
Incidentally, we humans are largely responsible for the current local and global changes that are taking place, which are affecting forests in manifold ways. We are, however, at the same time very much dependant on a large range of forest products and services that are critical for our existence. Knowing how forests will change and how this will have a knock-on effect on the services forests provide is therefore of vital importance for our sustainable future.
This Special Feature brings together contributions from the INTECOL 2013 conference and presents research that addresses these important questions and issues across a range of spatio-temporal scales. The papers presented in this Special Feature include plot-level observational (Camarero et al. 2015; Jakovac et al. 2015; Standish et al. 2015), experimental (Holmgren et al. 2015), paleo-ecological (Cole et al. 2015), and global modelling (Steinkamp & Hickler 2015) studies, as well as a synthesis paper covering the current state of affairs in forest resilience and tipping point research (Reyer et al. 2015).
The contributions to this Special Feature foster a deeper understanding of forest resilience and potential tipping points under local and global change. This Special Feature shows that it remains largely unclear how and if local and global change processes reduce resilience and/or whether they can lead to abrupt vegetation composition and/or species shifts. We have to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms and feedback loops involved in forest resilience and potential tipping points, and the aforementioned contributions will proof useful in guiding further research to safeguard sustainable forests.
Niels Brouwers, Christopher Reyer, Anja Rammig & Fanny Langerwisch
Special Feature Guest Editors, Journal of Ecology