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Tropical Ecology


International Society for Tropical Ecology


Hurricane Georges passed over mature dry forest near Guánica, Puerto Rico in September, 1998. The trees of the dense, short-statured Guánica Forest have a multi-stemmed structure unique to the West Indies in the neo-tropics, a characteristic that has been difficult to explain. Following the hurricane, we measured sprout development below breast height on 1407 stems to assess how response to hurricane disturbance may influence dry forest structure. Basal sprouting increased 8-14 fold after Hurricane Georges. Basal sprouting was found on al- most 68% of damaged stems and, notably, on about 32% of undamaged stems. Basal sprouting was found in all common species surveyed. The rate of defoliation was not related to sprout production. After two years, sprout mortality was only about 13%. We conclude that continued growth of basal sprouts will contribute to high stem densities and multi-stemmed growth forms commonly found in Guánica Forest and in the hurricane-prone West Indies.