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Disturbances fundamentally alter ecosystem functions, yet predicting their impacts remains a key scientific challenge. While the study of disturbances is ubiquitous across many ecological disciplines, there is no agreed-upon, cross-disciplinary foundation for discussing or quantifying the complexity of disturbances, and no consistent terminology or methodologies exist. This inconsistency presents an increasingly urgent challenge due to accelerating global change and the threat of interacting disturbances that can destabilize ecosystem responses. By harvesting the expertise of an interdisciplinary cohort of contributors spanning 42 institutions across 15 countries, we identified an essential limitation in disturbance ecology: the word ‘disturbance’ is used interchangeably to refer to both the events that cause, and the consequences of, ecological change, despite fundamental distinctions between the two meanings. In response, we developed a generalizable framework of ecosystem disturbances, providing a well-defined lexicon for understanding disturbances across perspectives and scales. The framework results from ideas that resonate across multiple scientific disciplines and provides a baseline standard to compare disturbances across fields. This framework can be supplemented by discipline-specific variables to provide maximum benefit to both inter- and intra-disciplinary research. To support future syntheses and meta-analyses of disturbance research, we also encourage researchers to be explicit in how they definemore »
The Gunung Palung Orangutan Project: Twenty-five years at the intersection of research and conservation in a critical landscape in IndonesiaThe Gunung Palung Orangutan Project has conducted research on critically endangered wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) since 1994 in Gunung Palung National Park, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. A major goal of our broad-ranging research on orangutan behavior and ecology is to understand how the unique rainforest environment of Southeast Asia, characterized by dramatic changes in fruit productivity due to unpredictable mast fruiting, impacts orangutan behavior, physiology, and health. Much of our research has been devoted to the development of non-invasive techniques and an integrated biology approach – using hormonal assays, fecal processing, nutritional analysis, genetics, and behavioral ecology – and has led to an increased understanding of the ecological and evolutionary pressures shaping orangutan adaptations. Our results show that the extended life history and very slow reproductive rate of orangutans are adaptations to their environment. Orangutans in the Gunung Palung landscape, as elsewhere across Borneo and Sumatra, also face a series of conservation challenges, including extensive habitat loss and the illegal pet trade. We highlight how our investigations of orangutan health status, ecosystem requirements, and the assessment of orangutan density using ground and drone nest surveys have been applied to conservation efforts. We describe our project’s direct conservation interventions ofmore »