The Everglades ecosystem contains the largest contiguous tract of mangrove forest outside the tropics that were also coincidentally intersected by a major Category 5 hurricane. Airborne videography was flown to capture the landscape pattern and process of forest damage in relation to storm trajectory and circulation. Two aerial video transects, representing different topographic positions, were used to quantify forest damage from video frame analysis in relation to prevailing wind force, treefall direction, and forest height. A hurricane simulation model was applied to reconstruct wind fields corresponding to the ground location of each video frame and to correlate observed treefall and destruction patterns with wind speed and direction. Mangrove forests within the storm’s eyepath and in the right-side (forewind) quadrants suffered whole or partial blowdowns, while left-side (backwind) sites south of the eyewall zone incurred moderate canopy reduction and defoliation. Sites along the coastal transect sustained substantially more storm damage than sites along the inland transect which may be attributed to differences in stand exposure and/or stature. Observed treefall directions were shown to be non-random and associated with hurricane trajectory and simulated forewind azimuths. Wide-area sampling using airborne videography provided an efficient adjunct to limited ground observations and improved our spatial understanding of how hurricanes imprint landscape-scale patterns of disturbance.
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