The Effect of Hurricanes on Forests 


Photo from NASA’s Library

Cassie Atkinson, Staff Writer

During the last week of March, I was in Vermont for my brother’s wedding. His venue was on a beautiful mountain with stunning, panoramic forest views. The owner said if we went for a hike to know there were many dead trees that were rotting, and it was not safe to walk nearby in case they fell. They said the forest had a lot less trees than a decade ago and more sunlight making it to the forest floor allowed for more moss and lichen covering trees and boulders. The snow had melted, and last autumn’s leaves covered the ground, but the organic matter created a layer three to five times deeper than normal levels. Hurricanes, the owner explained, caused this drastic change.

Although hurricane season does not start for two months, the effects on forests can be seen today and for hundreds of years to come. Destruction of forests is mostly caused by the high influx of salt damaging the internal system of trees and other organisms. Trees in biomes without sand or saltwater will not have salt glands to redirect salt brought in by their root because it’s simply not necessary. When floods, rain, and sand bring salt through hurricanes, trees and other leafy organisms cannot survive. Coniferous needles and leaves turn yellow and drop, increasing the organic matter on the forest floor the ecosystem is not ready for either. Due to the loss of trees, especially their roots, topsoil loosens and allows for erosion and landslides. Larger bodies of water most likely will end up with the eroded earth, which ends with a change of aqueous ecosystems. Furthermore, lakes and rivers that create groundwater, water found underground that moves through geological formations, cause saltier soils that end up destroying more ecosystems. Through all these effects, one hurricane’s effect can last hundreds of years.


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