Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Maintaining historic disturbance regimes increases species’ resilience to catastrophic hurricanes


Henry, Erica H; Burford Reiskind, Martha O; Land, Aerin; Haddad, Nick M (2019), Maintaining historic disturbance regimes increases species’ resilience to catastrophic hurricanes, Dryad, Dataset,


As habitat loss and fragmentation, urbanization, and global climate change accelerate, conservation of rare ecosystems increasingly relies on human intervention. However, any conservation strategy is vulnerable to unpredictable, catastrophic events. Whether active management increases or decreases a system’s resilience to these events remains unknown. Following Hurricane Irma’s landfall in our habitat restoration study sites, we found that rare ecosystems with active, human-imposed management suffered less damage in a hurricane’s path than unmanaged systems. At the center of Is landfall, we found Croton linearis’ (a locally rare plant that is the sole host for two endangered butterfly species) survival and population growth rates in the year of the hurricane were higher in previously managed plots than in un-managed controls. In the periphery of Irma’s circulation, the effect of prior management was stronger than that of the hurricane. Maintaining the historical disturbance regime thus increased the resilience of the population to major hurricane disturbance.  As climate change increases the probability and intensity of severe hurricanes, human management of disturbance-adapted landscapes will become increasingly important for maintaining populations of threatened species in a storm’s path. Doing nothing will accelerate extinction.