Hurricane-Caused Tree Loss on Permanent Plots in a Temperate Hardwood Forest


Jacob R.G. Kribel

Additional Authors:

Stewart Ware


March 2014


Hardwood forest, hurricanes, temperate forest, tree loss, winds.

ABSTRACT Hurricane Isabel (September 2003) was the largest, most damaging hurricane to hit Virginia in at least 70 years. Permanent plots established in a maturing upland hardwood forest in 2002 were resampled in 2004 to assess hurricane damage. Tree loss among stems ‡10 cm diameter breast high (dbh) varied from none in 7 of the 20 plots to 50% of stems and 83% of canopy cover in a plot hit by a local microburst. Loss was greater on ridges and other higher elevation sites, and downwind of expanses of water. Loss was significantly higher in trees ‡60 cm dbh. Loss in Quercus velutina (46.6%) was significantly higher, and in Fagus grandifolia (7.7%) and Acer rubrum (7.4%) loss was significantly lower than the overall loss rate (16.9%). The latter two species occurred mostly in the lower canopy and understory, where tree loss was generally lower. Among stems ‡2.5 cm dbh but <10 cm dbh, all loss was secondary damage from falling larger trees, but was significantly higher in Oxydendrum arboreum (36.4%) and significantly lower in Acer rubrum (3.6%) than the overall loss rate for this size class (11.0%). Ilex opaca had a low loss rate in both larger and smaller size classes, but in both classes, difference from the overall rate was just short of the p < 0.05 level.