Track: Plenary Session
Vital connections that enhance understanding and engagement about ecological disturbances: a forest canopy perspective
Half a century ago, ecologists first ascended into forest canopies to answer curiosity-driven questions about what was then called "the last biotic frontier." Researchers have since documented the critical interactions in the forest canopies that maintain biodiversity and enhance ecosystem-level processes. Forest canopies are highly dynamic, subject to both physical and environmental disturbances from natural and human causes. Because canopy-dwelling plant communities are independent from terrestrial soil and their host trees, they can serve as natural "mini-arenas" for ecological studies, as they can be both manipulated and replicated. I describe responses of canopy plant, soil, and associated microbial communities that have begun to inform ecologists about disturbance ecology. Studies from non-ecological disciplines that are concerned with disturbance - including burn trauma, refugee studies, traffic engineering, and neuroscience - have also provided insights into disturbances that affect forested landscapes.
This basic research has led to broader impacts activities about the importance of forests to public groups who might not seek out information about or have access to nature. Ecologists can apply the approach of "intellectual humility" to create vital connections between the ecological values of trees with other societal values of forests -- aesthetic, spiritual, and social justice values -- which can broaden societal support for nature and the discipline of ecology. Human connections within academia are vital to foster "broader impacts trajectories" for emerging ecologists and others within and outside of academia.
For more information, including speaker biographies and photos, see our plenary page.