Biotic disturbance hotspots
Interactions among disturbance agents are increasingly important to consider as climate warms and disturbance activity changes. Preliminary research has suggested that the occurrence of biotic disturbance hotspots (i.e., areas where disturbances from two or more biotic agents are co-occurring in space and time) may be increasing in the western United States in recent years. An increase in biotic disturbance hotspots would have important implications for the resilience of forests in the face of climate change, particularly if disturbance agents have compound or synergistic effects. However, an exploration of the broad-scale factors associated with these hotspots (e.g., climate, weather, vegetation structure, topography) has not been conducted to date. This project will build on research that is already underway by my advisor (Dr. Brian J. Harvey) and our collaborators, who are evaluating whether increases in area of biotic disturbance hotspots are greater than expected from random chance during a period of increasing overall biotic disturbances.