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  1. Abstract Motivation

    Rapid climate change is altering plant communities around the globe fundamentally. Despite progress in understanding how plants respond to these climate shifts, accumulating evidence suggests that disturbance could not only modify expected plant responses but, in some cases, have larger impacts on compositional shifts than climate change. Climate‐driven disturbances are becoming increasingly common in many biomes and are key drivers of vegetation dynamics at both species and community levels. Palaeoecological records provide valuable observational windows for elucidating the long‐term impacts of these disturbances on plant dynamics; however, sparse resolution and difficulty in disentangling drivers of change limit our ability to understand the impact of disturbance on plant communities. In this targeted review, we highlight emerging opportunities in palaeoecology to advance our understanding about how disturbance, especially fire, impacts the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of terrestrial plant communities.


    Global examples, with many from North America.


    We propose a set of palaeoecological and integrative approaches that could greatly enhance our understanding of how disturbance regimes influence global plant dynamics. Specifically, we identify four future study areas: (1) focus on palaeoecological disturbance proxies beyond fire and leverage multi proxy research to examine the influence of interacting disturbances on plant community dynamics; (2) use advances in disturbance and vegetation reconstructions, including ancient sedimentary DNA, to provide the spatial, temporal and taxonomic resolution needed to resolve the relationship between changing disturbance regimes and corresponding shifts in plant community composition; (3) integrate palaeoecological, archaeological and Indigenous knowledge to disentangle the complex interplay between climate, human land use, fire and vegetation structure; and (4) apply “functional palaeoecology” and the synergy between palaeoecology and genetics to understand how fire disturbance has served as a long‐standing selective agent on plants. These frameworks could increase the resolution of disturbance‐driven plant dynamics, potentially providing valuable information for future management.

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  2. Nearly 25% of all lakes on earth are located at high latitudes. These lakes are formed by a combination of thermokarst, glacial, and geological processes. Evidence suggests that the origin of periglacial lake formation may be an important factor controlling the likelihood of lakes to drain. However, geospatial data regarding the spatial distribution of these dominant Arctic and subarctic lakes are limited or do not exist. Here, we use lake-specific morphological properties using the Arctic Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and Landsat imagery to develop a Thermokarst lake Settlement Index (TSI), which was used in combination with available geospatial datasets of glacier history and yedoma permafrost extent to classify Arctic and subarctic lakes into Thermokarst (non-yedoma), Yedoma, Glacial, and Maar lakes, respectively. This lake origin dataset was used to evaluate the influence of lake origin on drainage between 1985 and 2019 in northern Alaska. The lake origin map and lake drainage datasets were synthesized using five-year seamless Landsat ETM+ and OLI image composites. Nearly 35,000 lakes and their properties were characterized from Landsat mosaics using an object-based image analysis. Results indicate that the pattern of lake drainage varied by lake origin, and the proportion of lakes that completely drained (i.e., >60% area loss) between 1985 and 2019 in Thermokarst (non-yedoma), Yedoma, Glacial, and Maar lakes were 12.1, 9.5, 8.7, and 0.0%, respectively. The lakes most vulnerable to draining were small thermokarst (non-yedoma) lakes (12.7%) and large yedoma lakes (12.5%), while the most resilient were large and medium-sized glacial lakes (4.9 and 4.1%) and Maar lakes (0.0%). This analysis provides a simple remote sensing approach to estimate the spatial distribution of dominant lake origins across variable physiography and surficial geology, useful for discriminating between vulnerable versus resilient Arctic and subarctic lakes that are likely to change in warmer and wetter climates. 
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