Forest disturbances play a critical role in shaping forest structure and influencing the ecosystem services that forests provide including carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and forest products. With increasing anthropogenic pressures and changing climate, the questions of how disturbance rates vary the vulnerability of forests to changes in disturbance are of high importance. This talk will cover research quantifying the spatial and temporal rates and patterns of disturbance within and between diverse forested landscapes of the contiguous U.S. as captured by over a quarter century of Landsat imagery. Further the vulnerability of forest ecosystems to altered disturbance is assessed under current and future climate in an advanced mechanistic ecosystem model. The challenges and opportunities going forward are to continue to quantify and integrate the complex rates, patterns, and processes of disturbance into ecosystem models and field study designs that link impact assessment of changes to ecosystem function and services.
Katelyn Dolan is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Maryland working on high resolution forest carbon mapping and monitoring in the Mid-Atlantic US, integrating lidar, imagery, field data and modeling. She recently completed her PhD this fall from the University of Maryland’s Geographical Sciences Department, which was in part supported by a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship and the Joint Global Carbon Cycle Center. Her PhD research was focused on assessing the spatial and temporal dynamics of forest disturbance across the US using Landsat time series disturbance data and an advanced mechanistic ecosystem model. Katelyn’s first interactions with NASA Goddard was during a summer undergrad Research and Discover internship, where she worked with Jeff Masek and Jim Collatz to combine ICESat Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) and Landsat data to estimate regional forest growth rates across a latitudinal gradient up the east coast of the US (Dolan et al. 2009). She continued looking at the capabilities of using space born lidar in forest and carbon monitoring as a masters student at the University of New Hampshire, examining the use of ICESat to assess large-scale forest disturbance caused by Hurricane Katrina (Dolan et al. 2011).