Post-hurricane regeneration of pioneer plant species in south Florida subtropical hardwood hammocks

Charles Kwit, Louisiana State University
William J. Platt, Louisiana State University
Harold H. Slater, Acaribe Research Institute


After Hurricane Andrew crossed southern Florida (U.S.A.) on 24 August 1992, native and exotic pioneer species in subtropical hardwood forests (hammocks) regenerated from seed banks. Regeneration occurred in hammocks of metropolitan Dade County and the Long Pine Key region of Everglades National Park. The density of the native pioneer Trema micrantha was significantly higher in hammocks of Long Pine Key than in those of metropolitan Dade County. In contrast, the basal area of the exotic pioneer Carica papaya was greater in Dade County hammocks than Long Pine Key hammocks. Although T. micrantha tended to be restricted to areas of soil disturbance (tip-up pits) formed by trees uprooted during Hurricane Andrew, especially in Long Pine Key, C. papaya was located throughout hammocks. These results suggest differences in the regeneration niches in which the native T. micrantha required more specific disruptions (i.e., both canopy and soil) than C. papaya (only removal of canopy) for establishment. A broad regeneration niche could in part account for the capability of an exotic species with a dormant seed bank to invade native subtropical forests following natural large-scale disturbances.