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    Description

    An extreme disturbance event is one in which any of its component disturbance forces and their interactions with affected systems have dimensions and responses that exceed the known range of variation expected of those parameters. If the exposed system does not respond or exhibits a low level response to an event, the event was not extreme to the exposed system, regardless of the dimensions of its disturbance forces. Extreme disturbance events are complex and require disaggregation to improve understanding of their effects. The areas affected by extreme events and the duration of the events are related but involve many orders of magnitude in terms of area affected and duration. One way to compare events is through a common and objective unit of measure such as energy. A comparison of ten extreme events in terms of their power and total energy delivered per unit area revealed a broad range of values among them. The power of events ranged 8 orders of magnitude and the total load per unit area ranged 14 orders of magnitude. Each event had different points of interaction with exposed ecosystems. When exposed to the same extreme event, the response of social systems is different from the response of the ecological systems. Also, social systems recovered quicker to a category 3 hurricane than did ecological systems. Both social and ecological systems have the capacity to evolve, adapt, innovate, and develop novelty in response to the selective pressure of extreme events.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

    Citation

    Lugo, Ariel E. 2018. Characterization of ten extreme disturbance events in the context of social and ecological systems. Biogeochemistry. 53: 1159. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-018-0453-y.

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    Keywords

    disturbances, extreme events, hurricanes, landslides, drought, economic collapse.

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