Forest ThreatNet

Volume 12, Issue 2 - Spring 2018

New Technology Reveals Hurricane Maria’s Impact on Puerto Rico’s Forests

Poster: Hurricane Impacts to Puerto Rico’s ForestsPeople living and working in Puerto Rico know all too well the destruction of homes, infrastructure, and surroundings following Hurricane Maria’s landfall on September 20, 2017. In heavily forested areas, the severity of damage to vegetation has been less clear. With traditional remote sensing methods, assessing the state of tropical forests is relatively difficult due to the nature of the forests themselves: frequent cloud cover, high humidity, and highly productive vegetation that rapidly regrows after disturbance. Center research ecologist Steve Norman presented a poster at the US-International Association for Landscape Ecology’s annual conference summarizing new research that employed high-resolution Sentinel satellite imagery and a methodology to overcome many of these challenges to provide a picture of the damage soon after the hurricane event. “Patterns of damage severity followed clear topographic gradients that relate to exposure,” says Norman. “Remarkably, the most productive vegetation experienced the most damage, but that will likely recover rapidly. Perhaps of greater concern are the less productive forests that were also severely damaged but will be slower to recover, especially if storms increase in frequency and/or intensity.” Such insights into damage patterns can help bring focus to areas that may be more prone to future damage. View the poster…

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