Hurricane Impacts upon Tropical Forests, What Do We Know?

Gillian Schultz

UC Riverside
Dept of Botany & Plant Sciences
Riverside CA 92521 USA
tel: (909) 787-4686
fax: (909) 787-4748

Tropical forests in the circum-Caribbean are subject to a wide array of disturbances. Disturbances, both human and natural, have variable effects upon the structure and composition of these forests. Among the most important of the natural disturbance factors in this area are hurricanes. Until recently, very little was known about the effects of hurricanes upon tropical forest structure and function. In the past ten years, the incidence of several major hurricanes in the region has allowed scientists to examine more closely the damage caused by hurricanes and the subsequent regeneration processes in tropical forests. Studies have been done in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Florida, The French West Indies, the Virgin Islands and Quintana Roo. The consensus of these studies is that hurricanes do not cause major shifts in species composition and forest structure. This review is part of my dissertation research on the ecological history of the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula that will be done at UC Riverside.