Disturbances such as fires, insect outbreaks and windthrows are an integral part of the natural dynamics of forest ecosystems. However, disturbance regimes are changing, and are increasingly in conflict with satisfying the growing societal demand for ecosystem services. With the aim of stimulating future research on disturbances in a changing world I here discuss five current research frontiers of forest disturbance research:
(1) Contextualizing disturbance change: Are recent disturbances truly unprecedented? Are current disturbance regimes still within the natural range of variability of the system?
(2) Understanding the drivers of disturbance change: What are the causes of recent unprecedented disturbance events? What is the role of cross-scale amplification, disturbance interactions, and large-scale synchronization of the disturbance regime?
(3) Resilience to changing disturbances: What are negative feedbacks within the system that can facilitate self-regulation? When and where will changing disturbance regimes exceed tipping points?
(4) Disturbances in a social-ecological context: What do changing disturbances mean for ecosystem services provisioning? How can the paradoxical nature of disturbances be addressed in ecosystem management?