Hurricanes can damage trees in forested wetlands, and the potential for mortality related to these storms exists due to the effects of tree damage over time. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew passed through the forested wetlands of southern Louisiana with winds in excess of 225 kph. Although more than 78% of the basal area was destroyed in some areas, most trees greater than 2.5 cm dbh were alive and resprouting prolifically the following year (98.8%). Survival of most tree species was similarly high two years after the hurricane, but mortality rates of some species increased dramatically. For example, Populus heterophylla (swamp cottonwood) mortality increased from 7.8 to 59.2% (n = 76) and Salix interior (sandbar willow) mortality increased from 4.5 to 57.1% (n = 21). Stem sprouts on many up-rooted hardwood trees of other species were still alive in 1998, 6 years after the hurricane. Due to the understory tree species composition, regeneration, and high levels of resprouting, there was little change in species composition or perhaps a slight shift toward more shade and flood tolerant species six years following the hurricane event. Triadica sebifera (Chinese tallow) was found on some of the sites heavily disturbed by Hurricane Andrew, and may proliferate at the expense of native tree species.
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Vol. 29 • No. 1