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Hurricane Katrina-induced forest damage in relation to ecological factors at landscape scale

Wang, Fugui, Xu, Y. Jun
Environmental monitoring and assessment 2009 v.156 no.1-4 pp. 491
coastal forests, floodplains, forest damage, forest stands, geographic information systems, hardwood forests, hurricanes, landscapes, models, remote sensing, riparian buffers, risk, rivers, soil, stand density, storm damage, topography, wind speed, United States
Forest stand stability to strong winds such as hurricanes has been found to be associated with a number of forest, soil and topography factors. In this study, through applying geographic information system (GIS) and logit regression, we assessed effects of forest characteristics and site conditions on pattern, severity and probability of Hurricane Katrina disturbance to forests in the Lower Pearl River Valley, USA. The factors included forest type, forest coverage, stand density, soil great group, elevation, slope, aspect, and stream buffer zone. Results showed that Hurricane Katrina damaged 60% of the total forested land in the region. The distribution and intensity of the hurricane disturbance varied across the landscape, with the bottomland hardwood forests on river floodplains most severely affected. All these factors had a variety of effects on vulnerability of the forests to the hurricane disturbance and thereby spatial patterns of the disturbance. Soil groups and stand factors including forest types, forest coverage and stand density contributed to 85% of accuracy in modeling the probability of the hurricane disturbance to forests in this region. Besides assessment of Katrina’s damage, this study elucidates the great usefulness of remote sensing and GIS techniques combined with statistics modeling in assessment of large-scale risks of hurricane damage to coastal forests.