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The effects of hurricanes on birds, with special reference to Caribbean islands

  • James W. Wiley (a1) and Joseph M. Wunderle (a2)
Summary

Cyclonic storms, variously called typhoons, cyclones, or hurricanes (henceforth, hurricanes), are common in many parts of the world, where their frequent occurrence can have both direct and indirect effects on bird populations. Direct effects of hurricanes include mortality from exposure to hurricane winds, rains, and storm surges, and geographic displacement of individuals by storm winds. Indirect effects become apparent in the storm's aftermath and include loss of food supplies or foraging substrates; loss of nests and nest or roost sites; increased vulnerability to predation; microclimate changes; and increased conflict with humans. The short-term response of bird populations to hurricane damage, before changes in plant succession, includes shifts in diet, foraging sites or habitats, and reproductive changes. Bird populations may show long-term responses to changes in plant succession as second-growth vegetation increases in storm-damaged old-growth forests.

The greatest stress of a hurricane to most upland terrestrial bird populations occurs after its passage rather than during its impact. The most important effect of a hurricane s i the destruction of vegetation, which secondarily affects wildlife in the storm's aftermath. The most vulnerable terrestrial wildlife populations have a diet of nectar, fruit, or seeds; nest, roost, or forage on large old trees; require a closed forest canopy; have special microclimate requirements and/or live in a habitat in which vegetation has a slow recovery rate. Small populations with these traits are at greatest risk to hurricane-induced extinction, particularly if they exist in small isolated habitat fragments.

Recovery of avian populations from hurricane effects is partially dependent on the extent and degree of vegetation damage as well as its rate of recovery. Also, the reproductive rate of the remnant local population and recruitment from undisturbed habitat patches influence the rate at which wildlife populations recover from damage.

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References
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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
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