Hurricanes have detrimental effects on the environment and the economy. Not only are these effects felt immediately after the hurricane, but they last long after the winds have died down. They can affect future plant growth and mortality. In October of 2016 South Carolina was hit by Hurricane Matthew, a category 5 hurricane. Hobcaw Barony, our study site, was in the direct path of the storm. This created an opportunity to study the immediate effects on regeneration after a hurricane. Regenerations rates were measured along and around a surge line to determine regeneration and mortality rates. This data also allowed for a better understanding of species distribution. The storm surge resulted in a significant decrease in the number of small (less than 30 cm tall) loblolly pine and wax myrtle trees. Large wax myrtle trees (taller than 140 cm), however, increased. Wax myrtle regeneration within the surge line also increased and the regeneration was mostly small tree because wax myrtle is more accustomed to salt water than loblolly pines. Following the death of all the loblolly pine, wax myrtle was able to grow back faster due to a stronger immunity to salinity and less competition for resources and space. It was observed that the bigger trees actually had higher mortality rates. This is because they faced wind damage and other factors resulting from the hurricane. Small trees faced less damage because the big trees were able to almost protect them. Overall, we found that hurricanes have a huge effect on tree regeneration, species distribution, and mortality rates. The aftermath of a hurricane causes a large change in ecology, as well as the economy.
Wilkinson, Brynn D.
"The Effects of Matthew’s Storm Surge on Coastal Loblolly Pine and Wax Myrtle Understory Regeneration,"
Journal of the South Carolina Academy of Science: Vol. 16
, Article 12.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/jscas/vol16/iss2/12