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After the fall: did coffee plants in Puerto Rico survive the 2017 hurricanes?

Mariño, Yobana A., García-Peña, José M., Vega, Victor J., Verle-Rodrigues, Jose C., Bayman, Paul
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2018 v.266 pp. 10-16
Coffea arabica, Hypothenemus hampei, Landsat, altitude, beverage industry, disasters, farms, hurricanes, normalized difference vegetation index, probability, vegetation, wind speed, Puerto Rico
Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017. According to initial estimates, 90% of coffee plants were destroyed. We surveyed damage to coffee plants in 81 plots throughout the coffee-growing area of west-central Puerto Rico; we used the change in the Landsat derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (ΔNDVI) to estimate damage to vegetation in coffee farms. ΔNDVI values ranged from 0 to 0.36. Almost half of all plots had ΔNDVI ≤ 0.17 and had less than 20% damaged plants, whereas twelve plots in six municipalities were severely hit and had ≥80% plants damaged. Damage varied greatly among plots and even within plots. Probability of damage was significantly higher in sites with north- and south-facing slopes than in sites with east- and west-facing slopes. Neither minimum distance from the center of Hurricane Maria, altitude, precipitation nor maximum wind speeds were related to extent of damage. Coffee berry borer (Hypothenemus hampei) populations decreased after the hurricanes but recovered quickly. Understanding patterns of damage and their causes may help suggest ways to protect the coffee industry from future natural disasters.