Hurricane Caused Tree Damage and the Role of Landscape Configuration and Socioeconomic Legacy

Authors: Shawn Landry*, University of South Florida, Michael Andreu, University of Florida, Andrew Koeser, University of Florida, Christina Staudhammer, University of Alabama, Qiuyan Yu, University of South Florida
Topics: Urban Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: urban forest, Irma, i-Tree
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Congressional A, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Hurricane Irma resulted in extensive wind damage across Florida. Damage to trees and the urban forest was also widespread, with uprooted and downed trees; as well as defoliation and limb loss. However, preliminary data suggested a spatial heterogeneity in the damage, even considering differences in wind speed, with patterns related to landscape context, species composition, and community socioeconomic factors. Urban forests provide a variety of ecosystem services and they are an ideal system to study disturbance impacts and how ecosystems will respond to changing climate regimes (e.g., increased storm frequency). This study examined how windstorm-caused tree failure relates to urban forest structure, and socio-ecological context. Leveraging the availability of pre-storm urban forest inventory data (i.e., sampled months prior to Irma) in Tampa, Gainesville and Orange County, Florida, we revisited field plots to assess storm-caused tree damage. We also quantified pre-/post-storm canopy cover within and surrounding inventory plots. The data allow us to examine relationships between community socioeconomic factors, forest structural factors (e.g., tree density, canopy cover and species diversity) with tree failure (e.g., tree or branch). We hypothesized that there would be less damage in areas with higher tree cover, and more damage in communities with lower socioeconomic status. We present preliminary results examining the spatial relationship between tree failure, surrounding pre-storm canopy cover, and socioeconomic context. Results are discussed in the context of how urban forests respond to hurricane-caused disturbance and the factors that influence resilience in light of anticipated future increases in storm frequency.

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