Variable Effects of Hurricane David on the Shallow Water Gorgonians of Puerto Rico
Abstract:Replicate samples of gorgonians were taken at six sites off the south coast of Puerto Rico before and after the passage of Hurricane David in 1979. All sites occurred (1) at shallow depths (6.1 to 15.5 m), (2) on substrates of consolidated limestone with low to moderate topographic relief, and (3) were fully exposed to the wind and wave action of the hurricane. The presence and relative abundance of species were quite similar among sites before David indicating that the gorgonians at all sites were representative of a single community type. The short-term effects of Hurricane David were highly variable. Colony mortalities ranged from 0 to 100%. Species-specific mortality patterns occurred at some sites but not at others. When present, species-specific patterns differed among sites. These patterns of mortality are unpredictable in the sense that they were unrelated to obvious gradients in storm exposure (as depth). Differences in the effect of Hurricane David were probably due to variations in the specific sources of mortality (burial, abrasion, detachment, twisting and others) which, in turn, may depend upon the interaction of local geomorphology with storm characteristics. In recent years attention has focused on the role of hurricane-induced disturbances in the coexistence of species on local (within community) spatial scales. In contrast, we find that the highly variable, localized effects of Hurricane David are more easily related to the coexistence of species on large (among community, or regional) spatial scales rather than a local level.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 1987
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