Hurricanes Disturb Non-tree Subtropical Wet Forest Species Composition
Hurricane disturbance caused pronounced and persistent changes in the non-tree species composition of a subtropical wet forest. A unique long-term Forest Service dataset tracked the response and recovery of tropical forest herb, shrub, and vine communities to multiple hurricanes over 21 years on the 13-ha Bisley Experimental Watersheds in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico. Analysis by Forest Service scientists found that hurricanes had altered non-tree community species composition by promoting the dominance of rapidly spreading ferns and vines.
These findings contrast sharply with other evidence showing that hurricane effects on the tree community is often negligible over similar time frames. These findings are particularly significant because non-tree species comprise the bulk of forest vascular plant diversity.
Forest Service Partners