The Natural Disturbance Program was formed by the Foothills Research Institute (now fRI Research) in 1996. A collaborative program between industry and government, it was developed to understand and describe how natural forces like fire, insects, disease, flooding, wind, and plant-eating animals have created historical patterns in the Foothills Research Institute land base. It is an extensive effort that entails many studies, some of which extend well beyond the Foothill Research Institute’s borders.
To understand how natural disturbances have shaped historical patterns, we must understand the processes causing natural disturbances. Understanding these processes is well beyond the ability of one study; it requires examination of many research topics at various times and spaces. For example, the Natural Disturbance Program has completed studies of natural disturbance patterns at very broad scales (like disturbance cycles and sizes) and now explores questions at intermediate scales (like residual patterns) and fine scales (like disturbance edge architecture).
Additionally, in the past seven years, the Natural Disturbance Program has identified and prioritized research projects by using a long-term research plan that dovetails project data, results, and conclusions. For instance, the final report on disturbance in riparian zones involved data from four individual projects at four different scales. This holistic approach to studying natural disturbance patterns has proven a powerful technique.
In 2012, a comprehensive program review led to a new vision for the program, completing its evolution to become the Healthy Landscapes Program.