Hurricane María tripled stem breaks and doubled tree mortality relative to other major storms

Uriarte, María; Thompson, Jill; Zimmerman, Jess K.. 2019 Hurricane María tripled stem breaks and doubled tree mortality relative to other major storms. Nature Communications, 10, 1362. 7, pp.

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Tropical cyclones are expected to intensify under a warming climate, with uncertain effects on tropical forests. One key challenge to predicting how more intense storms will influence these ecosystems is to attribute impacts specifically to storm meteorology rather than differences in forest characteristics. Here we compare tree damage data collected in the same forest in Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Hugo (1989, category 3), Georges (1998, category 3), and María (2017, category 4). María killed twice as many trees as Hugo, and for all but two species, broke 2- to 12-fold more stems than the other two storms. Species with high density wood were resistant to uprooting, hurricane-induced mortality, and were protected from breakage during Hugo but not María. Tree inventories and a wind exposure model allow us to attribute these differences in impacts to storm meteorology. A better understanding of risk factors associated with tree species susceptibility to severe storms is key to predicting the future of forest ecosystems under climate warming.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Biodiversity (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2041-1723
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: climate-change ecology, community ecology, forest ecology
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 01 Apr 2019 10:07 +0 (UTC)

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