Forest Response to Catastrophic Wind: Results from an Experimental Hurricane
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CitationCooper-Ellis, Sarah, David R. Foster, Gary Carlton, and Ann Lezberg. 1999. Forest Response to Catastrophic Wind: Results from an Experimental Hurricane. Ecology 80, no. 8: 2683. doi:10.2307/177250.
AbstractInfrequent, intense wind disturbance is an important factor in northeastern U.S. forests, yet little is known about the early stages of vegetation reorganization, or the processes that facilitate biotic regulation of ecosystem function after such storms. We designed an experiment, based on a simulated hurricane blowdown, to examine the relationship of tree damage patterns to mortality and regeneration, community dynamics, vegetation recovery, and ecosystem processes. In October 1990, selected canopy trees in a 50 X 160 m area within a 75-yr-old Quercus rubra-Acer rubrum forest in central Massachusetts were pulled over by a winch, using records from the 1938 hurricane to determine the number of trees and direction of fall. The resulting damage to 65% of trees closely approximated effects of the 1938 storm on New England forests. Damage and mortality varied by tree species and size, indicating the importance of pre-disturbance forest structure and composition in determining the range and severity of impact. Measurements of vegetation and environment in the experimental area and control indicated that, although the manipulated stand sustained dramatic damage and structural reorganization, resilience of trees and understory vegetation provided tight biotic control of ecosystem processes, including nutrient cycling. Continued leaf-out and induced sprouting by damaged trees, increased growth by saplings and understory plants, and seedling establishment on disturbed microsites stabilized the microenvironment. Our findings are in contrast to studies of disturbances in which mortality was higher when damaged trees were removed from the site. This suggests that salvage logging following wind disturbance may have serious long-term implications.
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