Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Committee Member

Dr. Bo Song, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Kyle Barrett

Committee Member

Dr. William Conner

Abstract

In 1989, Hurricane Hugo inflicted catastrophic damage on approximately 1.8 million hectares of forested land in South Carolina. This study’s purpose was to monitor species compositional shifts and structural changes in several forest types following the disturbance from Hurricane Hugo. The immediate consequences of hurricane damage are well documented. However, there are few studies based on the long-term compositional and structural changes that may result from hurricane disturbance, especially in temperate forest ecosystems. Fifty plots were monitored within four study areas, receiving varying degrees of hurricane damage: Beidler Forest, Santee Experimental Forest, Hobcaw Barony, and Congaree National Park. Inventories included species, damage class, tree diameter, and small regeneration. The objectives of this study were 1) to discover whether the coastal forests damaged by Hurricane Hugo are regaining a structure and composition that resembles the pre-hurricane forest; 2) to compare the recovery speed of wetland forests, e.g. bottomland hardwood swamps and cypress tupelo swamps to that of upland pine and hardwood forests; and 3) to discover how the degree of hurricane wind damage can affect the timing and the pattern of forest recovery in the coastal plain. Over the 24-year period following the hurricane, successional pathways have been variable among plots of different forest types and intensity of initial disturbance. We have observed an expected increase in basal area following the disturbance. Sapling populations in many species increased dramatically and some of these populations have begun to thin in recent years. In several forest types, Pinus taeda (not a predominant species at these sites prior to the hurricane) responded quickly and overtook some dominant species in basal area and tree/sapling abundance. Several other species that were not a major component of the tree strata (Morella cerifera, Fraxinus pennsylvanica, and the invasive Triadica sebifera) showed a large increase in sapling population, taking advantage of the increase in site resources before declining in density due to self-thinning. Overall, recovery speed and species resilience was specific to forest types and study sites.

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