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Rethinking Ecosystems Disturbance Recovery: what it was or what it could have been?
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  • Hamid Dashti,
  • Min Chen,
  • Bill Smith,
  • Kaiguang Zhao,
  • David Moore
Hamid Dashti
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Min Chen
The university os Wisconsin-Madison
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Bill Smith
The University of Arizona
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Kaiguang Zhao
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David Moore
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The time it takes for an ecosystem to recover is a key aspect of environmental disturbance. Conventionally, recovery is defined as a return to the pre-disturbance state, assuming ecosystem stationarity. However, this view does not account for the impact of external forces like climate change. We propose a counterfactual approach, viewing recovery as the state the ecosystem would achieve without the disturbance. This redefines recovery time as the period until the ecosystem reaches its counterfactual state. Through a case study on the greening of the Arctic and Boreal regions, we present evidence demonstrating significant disparities between counterfactual and conventional recovery time estimates. The well-documented greening of the region serves as an external force, introducing non-stationary dynamics that result in a counterfactual recovery time twice as long as the conventional view. We advocate for embracing the counterfactual definition of recovery, as it aligns more realistically with informed decision-making.