Hurricane Effects: Tabonuco

Hurricane Effects: Tabonuco

My brother is right about his favorite tree not surviving hurricanes well, and I thank him for admitting it. Tabonucos have adapted well to hurricanes. They have learned how to survive them. There seems to be three main reasons for this. One is that the tabonuco tree has a smaller crown (the upper part of the trees, including branches and leaves) than other trees of similar size. In a study Mom showed me, the tropical average amount of crown to amount of trunk is 22 to 1. The tabonuco average is 17 to 1. A smaller crown size means less tree for the winds to batter. 

Second, tabonuco roots intertwine themselves with other roots and rocks underground. Tabonuco roots are long and strong, and they tend to reach out and wrap around the roots of neighboring tabonucos, other trees, and boulders to form a kind of anchor. When strong winds batter the forest and heavy rains make the ground soggy, the anchored roots help keep the tabonucos standing. You can say the trees cooperate with each other in order to survive. It’s nice to think of trees cooperating like that. 

Third, tabonucos prefer to grow on slopes and ridges. In those places the drainage is good and the soil doesn’t turn to loose mud. Loose mud will also cause trees to topple. 

After a recent hurricane, scientists found the tabonuco was the tree that had best resisted the storm. In a certain part of the forest, just about all of the other trees suffered serious damage.  Almost half of the tabonucos suffered only from a loss of leaves. They may lose their leaves and an occasional branch, but the trunks remain. Soon new leaves replace the old ones. Their favorite song (that Mom really likes) is probably "I Will Survive."

Of course, they have to survive. Since it takes so long for them to become mature trees, they might otherwise become extinct, meaning they would exist nowhere and never come back. And that would be sad.

Dad seems to like what we’ve done with this manuscript, and he wants to give us a little extra information about surviving hurricanes. Well, he gave it to me and I’m writing it up. A really bad hurricane churns over El Yunque more or less every 60 years. He wants us to figure out how the forest would be different if a really bad hurricane came every 10 years, and how it would be different if a really bad hurricane came only every 100 years. My brother’s out playing in the forest. I’m going to get him. We’ll figure this out together. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to him if I did all the work, ha ha.

(The manuscript ends here.)