Tornado damage and initial recovery in three adjacent, lowland temperate forests in Missouri



Abstract. We surveyed tornado damage 14 months after disturbance in three adjacent forest sites in southeastern Missouri, USA: upland, an occasionally-flooded lowland and a frequently flooded swamp. We analysed three 0.09-ha plots in the swamp, and three 0.04-ha plots in the other sites and recorded the herbaceous-layer in five 1-m2 quadrats per plot.

Overall, 30 % of the individuals and 64 % of the basal area of these sites was blown down. However, mortality was less than structural damage: 20 % of the trees were dead 14 months post-disturbance, an intermediate level of mortality relative to other wind disturbances. Damage varied widely among species, sites and tree sizes, but large trees of all species were most likely to be damaged and least likely to resprout.

While damage was greatest in the wettest site, we attribute the increase to larger tree sizes and lower density there, rather than to inherent rooting instability. This study suggests that different forest composition and structure may be sufficient to cause differential damage, without topographic effects. Herbaceous-layer response was more rapid than in a previously reported tornado windthrow in Pennsylvania, and was dominated by fast-growing, shade-intolerant forbs.