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Does tree mortality in fires depend on past hurricanes?
Beckage, Brian*,1,2, Platt, William2, 1 University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN2 Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA
ABSTRACT- While disturbance has been recognized as an important determinant of community structure, only recently has the potential for interactions among disturbances been appreciated. Compounded disturbances have the potential to interact non-additively with strong effects on plant populations. We investigated the potential for prior hurricane disturbance to interact with subsequent fires to produce differential impacts on mortality of established trees. We examined fire-related mortality of South Florida Slash Pine in Everglades National Park following Hurricane Andrew. We found that tree mortality was elevated 5-15% in individual fires occurring after Hurricane Andrew compared to either sites that did not burn following Hurricane Andrew or in fires not associated with Hurricane Andrew. Trees that died in fires were ones that were damaged during the hurricane, suggesting that fire-hurricane interactions were likely to open space by removing damaged trees, facilitating large areas suitable for recruitment into pine populations. This suggests the potential for a fire-hurricane interaction that might be a strong determinant of community structure throughout pine savannas of the southeastern U.S.
KEY WORDS: fire, hurricane, trees, disturbance