The impact of Hurricane Hugo on two common tree snails in the Luquillo Experimental Forest of Puerto Rico: A long-term study



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Texas Tech University


The role of disturbance in structuring communities is widely recognized in ecology (Dayton, 1971; Pickett and White, 1985; Piatt and Strong, 1989; Sousa, 1984; Waide and Lugo, 1992; White, 1979). Disturbance may be narrowly or broadly defined, depending on the system of interest and focal organism. Moreover, the impact of a disturbance may range from altering habitat structure, resources, and microclimate, to disrupting biological interactions and lowering species densities (Browkaw, 1985; Denslow, 1985). Depending on the severity, intensity, frequency, and magnitude of a disturbance event, complete recovery from the event may take days or years (Waide and Lugo, 1992). Many processes require sufficient time to recover from such events. Thus, the spatial and temporal aspects of a disturbance event are crucial to understanding their long-term effects on organisms and communities.

Long-term ecological research is essential when studying slow processes, rare events, processes with high annual variability, subtle processes, or complex phenomena (Franklin, 1989). All of these processes require more than one or two seasons to be detected or evaluated. Moreover, several years of data collection may be required to distinguish such processes from natural background variation within the system of interest Hurricanes are high intensity, infrequent events that necessitate long-term ecological studies. The immediate impact of hurricanes on organisms (Gannon and Willig, 1994; Waide, 1991a, b; Willig and Camilo, 1991) and the environment (Basnet et al., 1992; Boose et al, 1994; Lodge and McDowell, 1991; Lugo et al, 1983; Reilly, 1991; Wadsworth and Englerth, 1959; Walker, 1991; Zimmerman et al., 1994) have received considerable study; however, the ramifications of such an event extend well beyond the event and have yet to be addressed from a long-term perspective.



Lugillo Experimental Forest, Hurricane Hugo, Snails