Initial Effects of Hurricane Andrew on the Shoreline Habitats of Southwestern Florida

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The geological and biological effects of Hurricane Andrew on shoreline habitats were documented at Lostman's River, Everglades National Park. This documentation occurred two and nine months after the storm exited the southern coast of Florida. No unusual sediment features were noted in the intertidal and seagrass communities, and no evidence of storm-generated sediment layer was present in either the landward mangal or the associated nearshore. The mangroves were severely damaged: 60% of the trees were uprooted or broken. Although the resulting open canopy should allow for seedling recovery, few propagules were observed. Complete loss of the mangrove macroalgal turf and epiphytes on the pneumatophores and prop roots resulted from the hurricane damage, with a subsequent loss of habitat for the mangal fauna. No infauna were found in inshore intertidal stations two months after the hurricane. Only very low numbers of small-sized polychaetes were evident after 9 months, suggesting that some faunal re-establishment was incomplete. The nearshore seagrass communities, consisting of Thalassia testudinum and Halodule wrightii, showed little damage. Sedimentation characteristics appeared typical of seagrass beds on Florida's west coast. The meiofauna of the seagrass beds was typical of subtropical regions, but with an unexpected high proportion of copepods and their naupliar stages. It appears that the mangal and associate organisms will require decades to recover, in contrast to the relatively undamaged adjacent seagrass communities.

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Journal of Coastal Research, v. 21, p. 103-110