Declining Radial Growth Response of Coastal Forests to Hurricanes and Nor'easters

TitleDeclining Radial Growth Response of Coastal Forests to Hurricanes and Nor'easters
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFernandes A, Rollinson CR, Kearney WS, Dietze MC, Fagherazzi S
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Keywordscoastal vegetation; floods; LTER; storm surge; tree ring

The Mid-Atlantic coastal forests in Virginia are stressed by episodic disturbance from hurricanes and nor'easters. Using annual tree ring data, we adopt a dendroclimatic and statistical modeling approach to understand the response and resilience of a coastal pine forest to extreme storm events, over the past few decades. Results indicate that radial growth of trees in the study area is influenced by age, regional climate trends, and individual tree effects but dominated periodically by growth disturbance due to storms. We evaluated seven local extreme storm events to understand the effect of nor'easters and hurricanes on radial growth. A general decline in radial growth was observed in the year of the extreme storm and 3 years following it, after which the radial growth started recovering. The decline in radial growth showed a statistically significant correlation with the magnitude of the extreme storm (storm surge height and wind speed). This study contributes to understanding declining tree growth response and resilience of coastal forests to past disturbances. Given the potential increase in hurricanes and storm surge severity in the region, this can help predict vegetation response patterns to similar disturbances in the future.

Citation Keyfernandes_declining_2018