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1 March 2009 Effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Forest Structure of Taxodium distichum Swamps of the Gulf Coast, USA
Beth A. Middleton
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Hurricane Katrina pushed mixed Taxodium distichum forests toward a dominance of Taxodium distichum (baldcypress) and Nyssa aquatica (water tupelo) because these species had lower levels of susceptibility to wind damage than other woody species. This study documents the volume of dead versus live material of woody trees and shrubs of T. distichum swamps following Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana. Pearl River Wildlife Management Area near Canton, Mississippi had the highest winds of the study areas, and these forests were located in the northeast quadrant of Hurricane Katrina (sustained wind  =  151 kph (94 mph)). Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve south of New Orleans had medium to high winds (sustained winds  =  111 kph (69 mph) at the New Orleans lakefront). Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge had a lower level of winds and was positioned on the western edge of the storm. The forests at Pearl River and to a lesser extent at Jean Lafitte had the highest amount of structural damage in the study. For Cat Island, Jean Lafitte, and Pearl River, the total volume of dead material (debris) was 50, 80, and 370 m3 ha−1, respectively. The ratio of dead to live volume was 0.010, 0.082, and 0.039, respectively. For both of the dominant species, T. distichum and N. aquatica, the percentage of dead to live volume was less than 1%. Subdominant species including Acer rubrum, Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus lyrata, and Quercus nigra were more damaged by the storm at both Pearl River and Jean Lafitte. Only branches were damaged by Hurricane Katrina at Cat Island. Shrubs such as Morella cerifera, Euonymous sp., and Vaccinium sp. were often killed by the storm, while other species such as Cephalanthus occidentalis, Forestiera acuminata, and Cornus florida were not killed. Despite the fact that Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm and struck Pearl River and Jean Lafitte fairly directly, dominant species of the T. distichum swamps were relatively little affected, even though certain subdominant and shrub species were completely removed from the species composition.

Beth A. Middleton "Effects of Hurricane Katrina on the Forest Structure of Taxodium distichum Swamps of the Gulf Coast, USA," Wetlands 29(1), 80-87, (1 March 2009).
Received: 14 March 2008; Accepted: 28 October 2008; Published: 1 March 2009

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