Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Hurricanes are major natural disturbances and integral components of forest disturbance regimes globally. The frequency and intensity of hurricanes are predicted to increase in the future due to global warming. The altered hurricane regime, along with direct effects of climate change on arthropod populations and communities, has the capacity to endanger the critical ecosystem processes and services provided by forest canopies. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the responses of forest fauna to disturbances such as hurricanes. This dissertation is aimed at understanding the short-term and long-term effects of hurricanes on canopy arthropods to improve predictions of the consequences of altered disturbance regimes.

The short-term changes on canopy arthropods following a catastrophic Hurricane Maria in a tropical rainforest were increased abundance of some arthropod groups (particularly sap-sucking herbivores) and decreased abundance of other groups, resulting in decreased diversity. A year of canopy arthropod sampling from canopy gaps created by a category 5 Hurricane Michael in a temperate forest compared to non-gaps showed idiosyncratic responses in overall abundance and diversity.

Canopy arthropod responses to increased hurricane frequency were evaluated with two experimental canopy trimmings over a 10-yr period that simulated repeated major hurricanes and one natural canopy opening by Hurricane Maria in a tropical rainforest. The results showed that a decreased interval between two major hurricanes may alter the canopy arthropod responses, likely due to truncated recovery time. The intensity and extent of hurricanes may also influence population and community dynamics.

A long-term temporal trend in canopy arthropod abundance and diversity was evaluated in a hurricane-mediated tropical rainforest subject to recurring major and minor hurricanes. The net canopy arthropod abundance remained relatively constant but showed interannual variation in abundances and species turnover. This study is important for understanding the possible effects of altered hurricane disturbance regime on canopy arthropods in the climate change scenario. This study also indicates that disturbance factors should be considered in the monitoring and evaluation of long-term arthropod trends.



Committee Chair

Schowalter, Timothy D.



Available for download on Monday, April 07, 2025

Included in

Entomology Commons