Canopy Density and Roughness Differentiate Resistance of a Tropical Dry Forest to Major Hurricane Damage
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Canopy Density and Roughness Differentiate Resistance of a Tropical Dry Forest to Major Hurricane Damage

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  • Journal Title:
    Remote Sensing
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    Tropical dry forest is vulnerable to increased climate variability with more frequent and severe storms. Studies of hurricane impact on tropical dry forest often focused on individual tree traits. How trees in tropical dry forests work together to combat wind damage is still unclear. To address this, we integrated ground-observed ecosystem structure from National Ecological Observation Network (NEON) with airborne-LiDAR images and analyzed resistance in forest structure of Guánica dry forest in Puerto Rico to major hurricanes in 2017 at the forest-stand level. Using each plot instead of the individual tree as the base unit, we regressed mean changes in stem height and fractions of lost or damaged stems at 15 plots on mean stem diameter, mean and standard deviation of stem height, stem density, and topography. Meanwhile, using the LiDAR-derived canopy heights, we compared the changes in canopy height before and after the hurricanes and regressed spatially the canopy height change on prior-hurricane tree cover, canopy height, and rugosity. We found that the damage was small in places with high stem density or high tree cover. Ground-observed damage in terms of height reduction significantly increased with the standard deviation of stem height, an index of roughness, but decreased with the mean stem diameter of the plots. LiDAR-detected damage in terms of reduction in canopy height was also found to decrease with tree cover and mean canopy height when the canopy height was small or moderate but increase with the rugosity. The fraction of lost stems significantly decreased with the stem density, and the fraction of damaged stems significantly increased with the roughness and the plot elevation. The collective parameters of forest stand quantified from ground-observation and LiDAR, such as stem density, tree cover, and canopy roughness or rugosity, highlighted mutual supports of trees and played important roles in resisting damages to the tropical dry forest during major hurricanes.
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    Remote Sensing, 13(12), 2262
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    CC BY
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