Science Fellowship for Assessment of Tree Islands Impacted by Hurricanes


The eye-wall of Hurricane Frances, a Category 2 hurricane, and Hurricane Jeanne, a Category 3 hurricane, passed north of Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on September 5 and September 25 of 2004. Hurrican force winds swept over the area impacting wetland forest communities (cypress swamp and tree islands). The impact of hurricane disturbance, in addition to current stressors, (i.e. hydrologic modification and colonization of invasive exotics) could further aggravate wetland forest health and prolong return. It has been suggested that large-scale disturbance from hurricanes can provide an opportunity for exotics to invade new areas ultimately changing a communities "natural" successional trajectory. Dispersal and establishment of invasive exotic plants such as Melaluca quinquenervia (melaleuca), Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazlilian pepper), and Lygodium microphyllum (old world climbing fern), and insects such as Lobate-Lac Scale may be facilitated in A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge tree island communities because of hurricane disturbance. This presents a unique opportunity to investigate how disturbance may facilitate the spread and recruitment of these non-natives onto these islands. If damage sustained to tree islands and location of islands within the refuge are important predictors of invasiveness, then managers can prioritize exotic removal efforts.

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