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Damage and Recovery of Riparian Sierra Palms after Hurricane Georges: Influence of Topography and Biotic Characteristics

Authors

  • Julie K. H. Zimmerman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, U.S.A.
      Current address: Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523, U.S.A. Corresponding author; e-mail: juliez@lamar.colostate. edu
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  • Alan P. Covich

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Fishery and Wildlife Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, U.S.A.
      Current address: Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Ecology Bldg., Athens, GA 30602, U.S.A.
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  • Received 16 December 2005; revision accepted 8 March 2006.

Current address: Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523, U.S.A. Corresponding author; e-mail: juliez@lamar.colostate. edu

Current address: Institute of Ecology, University of Georgia, Ecology Bldg., Athens, GA 30602, U.S.A.

ABSTRACT

Tropical forests are often shaped by disturbance events, especially in regions where hurricanes and other severe storms occur. We studied the effects of Hurricane Georges (September 1998) on the sierra palm (Prestoea acuminata var. montana) in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico. We established riparian transects along two headwater streams that were similar in size and location, but differed in riparian tree species composition and land-use history. Following Hurricane Georges, sierra palms were surveyed periodically for damage and recovery (measured by initial loss and subsequent regrowth of palm leaves), tree height, sun exposure, and production of inflorescences and infructescences. Palm height had the highest association with damage, with most damage occurring to canopy palms. Palm recovery (4 mo and 10 mo post-hurricane) was associated with high tree density, indicating that sun exposure was not limiting. Hurricane Georges likely reduced production of flowers and fruits in sierra palms for at least 10 mo following the storm, although production of new leaves was rapid. Although palms recovered quickly from defoliation after the hurricane, decreased reproduction resulted in reduced availability of fruit for terrestrial and aquatic consumers.

RESUMEN

Huracanes y tormentas tropicales, interrumpen la ecología de los bosques. Estudiamos los efectos del Huracán Georges (Septiembre de 1998), sobre las palmas de la sierra, (Prestoea acuminata var. montana) en las montañas de Luquillo en Puerto Rico. Se establecieron transectos a lo largo de dos ríos similares en tamaño y situación, pero que diferían en la composición de las especies de árboles y su uso histórico. Después del Huracán Georges, las palmas fueron examinadas periódicamente para evaluar daños y recuperación (medido como daño inicial y crecimiento posterior de las hojas), la altura de las palmas, la exposición al sol y la producción de infloreciensas e infruteciensas. La mayoría del daño ocurrió en el dosel y las palmas mas altas sufrieron el daño mas severo. La recuperación de las palmas (observada cuatro y diez meses después del huracán) se asocio con densidades altas de arboles, indicando, el sol no fue un limitante ecológico. El Huracán Georges probablemente redujo la producción de frutas y flores hasta 10 meses después de la tormenta. Aunque el crecimiento de nuevas hojas fue rápido, disminuyó la producción frutal, lo cual afecto su disponibilidad a los consumidores terrestres y acuáticos.

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