GEORGETOWN-- To look at the natural forests today, you would never know that Hurricane Hugo roared through South Carolina just 10 years ago, said Charles A. Gresham, a Clemson University forest ecologist.
Hugo's 1989 trek through the state damaged some 4.5 million acres of timberland in 23 South Carolina counties. After the hurricane, Gresham and other ecologists identified research sites in four South Carolina forests to track the recovery process over time. These sites have been set aside as permanent research areas through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They will remain undisturbed by any future developments and are being used to document what happens to forests in the aftermath of major hurricane damage.
Gresham is based at the Clemson's Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science in Georgetown, a public service research and education center that focuses on forests, wildlife and the environment. Every three years since 1993, he and other scientists have visited the research sites to measure the plant life and woody debris left behind, then inventory the types of trees in the study plots.
The study sites are located in the Hobcaw Forest at the Baruch Institute, the Francis Marion National Forest near McClellanville, the Bidler Forest near Holly Hill and the Congaree Forest near Columbia.
"Nature abhors a vacuum," Gresham said. "Within 10 years, we have seen significant recovery-- back to a fully functional, productive forest with a lot of habitat for wildlife. The trees that had their tops broken off by Hugo have re-formed crowns so the canopy has returned. We've also seen a ten-fold increase in the number of new trees filling in open spaces."
Called "advance regeneration," these new trees are coming from seeds
dropped into open spaces left when older trees were felled by the hurricane's
reported 100-plus mile-per-hour winds and by the rapid growth of seedl
Contact: Debbie Dalhouse