Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biology

First Advisor's Name

Steven Oberbauer

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Suzanne Koptur

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Jennifer Richards

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michael Ross

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Kevin R. T. Whelan

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Keywords

Everglades, Hurricane, Hurricane Andrew, Forest, Succession, Disturbance

Date of Defense

3-30-2016

Abstract

The regular occurrence of hurricane-associated winds has been an important factor in shaping the structure and composition of the forest ecosystems of the Florida Everglades. Forest communities in the Everglades are adapted to hurricane disturbances, but increased frequency and/or intensity of hurricanes may lead to decline or even collapse of these communities. The overall objective of this project is to understand the patterns, pace, and mechanisms of the recovery process to Hurricane Andrew damage in four Everglade forest communities: pinelands, hardwood hammocks, bayhead tree islands, and cypress domes. This study combines long- and short-term field measurements and experimental garden studies to determine how the four woody plant community types recover from hurricane impacts. Most of the community types were adversely affected by storm damage in the short-term (3 years post-hurricane) through altered growth rates and canopy defoliation, however these effects were relatively short lived and were not visible in shifts in species composition after the long-term (20 year) recovery period. Only in the most diverse communities over the long-term there was a delayed mortality in damaged individuals that drove a diversity loss. This loss was not present over the short-term recovery time period. Using individual damage extent and short-term recovery growth rates, I developed a simplified model that accurately predicted surviving individual stem size over long-term recovery periods of Taxodium distichum within cypress domes and select hardwood hammock species. The shadehouse experiments demonstrated the importance of nutrient availability to growth of seedlings of canopy dominants. Recruits of these species responded to changing environmental conditions associated with storm impact through a variety of strategies in accordance with their adaptive traits. Synergistically, the combined parts of this dissertation demonstrate directional community and species-specific shifts that vary over time scales. Storm impacts have the potential to alter community composition and diversity within impacted systems, and in particular the Everglades ecosystem.

Identifier

FIDC000257

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