BIOTROPICA 37(1): 16–24 2005

Factors Affecting Mortality and Resistance to Damage Following Hurricanes in a Rehabilitated Subtropical Moist Forest1
Rebecca Ostertag2,3,4 , Whendee L. Silver3,4 and Ariel E. Lugo4
3 Department 4 International

of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, 151 Hilgard Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3110, U.S.A. Institute of Tropical Forestry, Ceiba 1201, Jard´n Botanico Sur, R´o Piedras, PR 00926-1119, U.S.A. ı ı ´

The ability to resist hurricane damage is a property of both individuals and communities, and can have strong effects on the structure and function of many tropical forests. We examined the relative importance of tree size, species, biogeographic origin, local topography, and damage from previous storms in long-term permanent plots in a rehabilitated subtropical moist forest in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Georges in order to better predict patterns of resistance. Severe damage included uprooted trees, snapped stems, or crowns with greater than 50 percent branch loss. Hurricane induced mortality after 21 mo was 5.2 percent/yr, more than seven times higher than background mortality levels during the nonhurricane periods. Species differed greatly in their mortality and damage patterns, but there was no relationship between damage and wood density or biogeographic origin. Rather, damage for a given species was correlated with mean annual increment, with faster growing species experiencing greater damage, suggesting that growth rate may reflect a variety of life history tradeoffs. Size was also predictive of damage, with larger trees suffering more damage. Trees on ridges and in valleys received greater damage than trees on slopes. A strong relationship was noted between previous hurricane damage and present structural damage, which could not solely be explained by the patterns with size and species. We suggest that resistance of trees to hurricane damage is therefore not only...