Complexity of biological disturbance agents, fuels heterogeneity, and fire in forests in the western US
Generally, biological disturbance agents (BDAs) convert aboveground live biomass to dead biomass, decreasing canopy fuels and increasing surface fuels. However, the rate of conversion varies with time-since-event and among BDAs and forest types, resulting in a wide range of effects on the amount of dead fuels at any given time and place, which interacts with the structure and composition of the stand before and subsequent to BDA events. A major influence on fuels may be that BDAs have emerged as dominant agents of forest heterogeneity creation. Because BDAs play complex roles in fuels and fire heterogeneity across the western US which are further complicated by interactions with climate change, drought, and forest management (fire suppression), their impacts on fuels, fire and ecological consequences cannot be categorized simply as positive or negative but need to be evaluated within the context of BDA life histories and ecosystem dynamics.