Hurricanes: A Growing Threat to an Endangered System

As part of my Ph.D. research, I surveyed longleaf pine habitats before and after Hurricane Michael. My goals were to assess baseline conditions in habitats that were considered to be in exemplary condition and the subsequent damage caused by the storm. This information should help land managers and policy-makers be better informed while making decisions about recovery plans. In total, 0.3-0.4 million acres of longleaf pine habitat within the Florida panhandle were impacted by hurricane force winds, while up to 2.6 million acres experienced tropical storm force winds. My detailed surveys at four sites showed that the site nearest to the storm center experienced catastrophic losses with an estimated tree mortality of 88.7%. At the other sites further away, mortality ranged from 1.3 – 8.4%.