Connor Lentz

Date of Award


Degree Type



Biological Sciences

Director of Thesis

April South

Second Reader

Jessica Sutton


The Congaree National Forest serves as an ecological model for bottomland-hardwood forests. Hurricanes periodically strike the Southeast United States, with high-wind speeds causing damage affecting the Congaree National Forest and modifying forest dynamics. This has been well-studied from the effects of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989 (Sharitz et al. 1993). In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew, a category 5 storm, made landfall in the Southeastern United States, and eventually moved through the Congaree National Forest. The high winds and precipitation caused widespread tree damage throughout Congaree. This study used a belt-transect survey of 14.7km of trails throughout the park to record the extent of tree damage. The survey found n=186 downed trees >10cm in diameter. These downed trees affect the forest dynamics by allowing ecological succession of fungi, bacteria, xylophages, other animals, and shade intolerant species of trees. Wind damage may increase species diversity and richness (Zhao et al. 2006). The long-term effects of Hurricane Matthew are expected to be similar to the effects produced from Hurricane Hugo.

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