Abiotic disturbances and forest health

Abiotic disturbances – disturbances caused by non-living factors – are a natural and integral part of forest ecosystems that have major impacts, positive and negative. They influence forest structure, composition and functioning and can be important for maintaining biological diversity and facilitating regeneration. When disturbances exceed their normal range of variation, however, the impacts on forests can be extreme affecting entire landscapes, causing large-scale tree mortality and complete destruction of undergrowth and soils. Global climate change is exacerbating many of these impacts by making forests more prone to damage by altering the frequency, intensity and timing of some events such as cyclones, storms, landslides, insect and disease outbreaks, and heat waves and droughts which increase the risk of large-scale fires.

Abiotic disturbances that have known impacts on forests and the forest sector include:

This Web site provides information on the general impacts of abiotic disturbances on forests and the forest sector. More detailed information, including references, can be found in our publication Abiotic disturbances and their influence on forest health.


* These anthropogenic, or human-caused, events are included here since the agent itself, i.e. fire or pollutants, is abiotic or non-living.

last updated:  Monday, February 18, 2013