Timing and extent of forest disturbance in the Laurentian Mixed Forest

Christopher B. Edgar, James A. Westfall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


An analysis of United States national forest inventory observations in the Laurentian Mixed Forest reveals a marked increase in forest disturbance between 1999 and 2015. The Laurentian Mixed Forest Province ecological subregion spans the northern sections of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and includes forest area of between 16.7 and 17.5 million hectares depending on the year. Forest disturbance ranges from a low of 0.13 million hectares (0.8% of forest area) in 2000 to a high of 2.09 million hectares (11.9% of forest area) in 2014. The year 2015 is notable for being the first year since 2000 where forest disturbance declines, albeit modestly (11.4% of forest area). The marked increase is attributable to disturbances occurring continuously over time between remeasurement. Disturbances with the highest annual averages are insect damage to trees, disease damage to trees, and deer/ungulate at 291 thousand, 189 thousand, and 126 thousand hectares per year, respectively. Disturbances occurring in a specific year, what we term discrete disturbances, show no discernible trend during the period. The most extensive discrete disturbances are wind in 1999, 2011, and 2012 at 108 thousand, 62 thousand, and 61 thousand hectares, respectively. Standard estimates from national forest inventory lack specificity as to the actual year of the disturbance. The estimates reported here are actual annual estimates of disturbance that apply estimation methods accounting for the retrospective nature of the disturbance observation. The timing (year) and location (ecological section) of the two most extensive wind events coincide with historical records.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number963796
JournalFrontiers in Forests and Global Change
StatePublished - Aug 24 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding to support CE in this effort was provided by USDA Forest Service Project Forest Biometrics Research and Program Support (20-JV-11242305-018) and Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station Project MIN-42-114.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Edgar and Westfall.


  • Great Lakes
  • disease
  • ecological subregion
  • insects
  • national forest inventory
  • wind


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