Get access

Plant functional traits explain interspecific differences in immediate cyclone damage to trees of an endangered rainforest community in north Queensland

Authors

  • TIMOTHY J. CURRAN,

    1. The School for Field Studies, Centre for Rainforest Studies, PO Box 141, Yungaburra, Qld 4884, Australia (Email: tcurran@fieldstudies.org)
    Search for more papers by this author
  • ROBYN L. BROWN,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • a

      Present addresses: Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H1, Canada;

  • EMILEE EDWARDS,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • b

      Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA 99258-0102, USA;

  • KRISTINA HOPKINS,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • c

      Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA;

  • CATHERINE KELLEY,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • d

      Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA;

  • ELIZABETH MCCARTHY,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • e

      Trinity College, Hartford, CT 06106 USA;

  • ERIN POUNDS,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • f

      Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA;

  • RENATA SOLAN,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • g

      Oberlin College Department of Biology, Oberlin, OH 44074, USA;

  • JAMI WOLF

    Search for more papers by this author
    • These authors made equal contributions to this paper and are listed in alphabetical order.

    • h

      Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL 33711, USA.


Abstract

Abstract  Cyclones cause profound immediate impacts on tropical rainforest trees, including defoliation, limb loss, snapping of stems and uprooting. Some studies have shown that plant functional traits such as tree size, buttress roots and wood density are correlated with these forms of cyclone damage. On 20 March 2006, Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry crossed the north Queensland coast and proceeded inland across the Atherton Tablelands, impacting the critically endangered Mabi Type 5b rainforest. We investigated the effects of Cyclone Larry on common tree species by categorizing damage to trees as uprooted, snapped, limbs damaged (light, moderate, severe) or upright and estimating levels of defoliation. Damage was then related to functional traits including tree size, presence of buttress roots, wood density, and leaf size and strength. Levels of damage differed between species. Tree size (diameter at breast height) and the presence of buttress roots were not related to damage levels. Wood density was significantly negatively correlated to proportion of trees with snapped stems and significantly positively correlated with the proportion of trees upright with no or light limb damage. Levels of defoliation were significantly related to leaf strength (specific leaf area – SLA) and to leaf width, but not other components of leaf size (area or length) or petiole length. Species with high wood density and low SLA (e.g. Argyrodendron spp.) were found to have high cyclone resistance, the ability to resist damage, while species with low wood density and high SLA (e.g. Dendrocnide photinophylla) exhibited low resistance. However, traits related to low resistance are also those linked to rapid growth and high cyclone resilience, the ability to recover from damage, so it is unlikely that the Mabi forest will experience long-term changes in floristic composition following Cyclone Larry.

Ancillary