In 1998, we measured the effects of Hurricane Georges after it passed over long‐term research sites in Puerto Rican dry forest. Our primary objectives were to quantify hurricane effects on forest structure, to compare effects in a large tract of forest versus a series of nearby forest fragments, to evaluate short‐term response to hurricane disturbance in terms of mortality and sprouting, and to assess the ability of hurricanes to maintain forest structure. We sampled damage from 33 plots (1.3 ha) across a 3000‐ha tract of forest as well as in 19 fragments. For stems with 2.5‐cm minimum diameter, 1004 stems/ha (12.4%) suffered structural damage, while 69 percent of the undamaged stems were at least 50 percent defoliated. Basal area lost to structural damage equaled 4.0 m2/ha (22%) in south‐facing native forests. Structural damage and defoliation increased with stem diameter and were more common in certain dry forest species. South‐facing forests and those on ridgetops incurred more damage than north‐facing forests or those comprised primarily of introduced species. Stem mortality was only 2 percent of all stems after 9 mo. Structural damage did not necessarily result in stem mortality. Hurricane‐induced mortality was not associated with stem height or diameter, but was ten times greater than background mortality. Basal sprouting was proportional to the amount of structural damage incurred in a stand. Forest fragments experienced the same patterns of hurricane effects as the reference forest. The low, dense structure of Caribbean dry forest can be maintained by hurricane damage to larger stems and induction of basal sprouting to generate multistemmed trees.
Van Bloem, S. J., Murphy, P. G., Lugo, A. E., Ostertag, R. , Costa, M. R., Bernard, I. R., Colón, S. M. and Mora, M. C. (2005), The Influence of Hurricane Winds on Caribbean Dry Forest Structure and Nutrient Pools1. Biotropica, 37: 571-583. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2005.00074.x