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Tree Physiology


Heron Publishing—Victoria Canada


The physiognomy of Caribbean dry forest is shorter, denser and contains a greater proportion of multi-stemmed trees than other neotropical dry forests. Our previous research, conducted after Hurricane Georges in 1998, has shown that dry forest trees sprout near the base following hurricane disturbance, even if the trees have not incurred structural damage. However, for these hurricane-induced sprouts to contribute to the physiognomy of the forest, they must grow and survive. We followed sprout dynamics and stem mortality on 1,407 stems from 1998, after Hurricane Georges, until 2005. The number of surviving sprouts and the proportion of sprouting stems decreased during the 7-year period, but the sprouting rate was still 3-fold higher and the proportion of sprouting stems 5-fold higher than before the hurricane. Mortality of non-sprouting stems (15.4%) was about the same as for sprouting stems (13.9%) after 7 years. The mean length of the dominant sprout surpassed 1.6 m by 2005, with over 13% of the dominant sprouts reaching subcanopy height. Sprout growth and survival varied among species. These results demonstrate that, despite some thinning, hurricane-induced sprouts survive and grow and that the unique physiognomic characteristic of Caribbean dry forests is related to hurricane disturbance.


DOI: 10.1093/treephys/27.3.475

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