Correlating stem biomechanical properties of Hawaiian canopy trees with hurricane wind damage

Gregory P. Asner, Guillermo Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Hawaiian forests are subject to the effects of periodic hurricane conditions. Hurricane Iniki struck the island of Kauai, Hawaii on September 11, 1992 with winds exceeding 200 km/h and caused defoliation, felling of trees by snapping and uprooting, and standing tree mortality due excessive limb and leaf loss. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if measured wood mechanical characteristics could be correlated with stem failure of trees under windstorm conditions. A field survey indicated that post-hurricane stem condition (snapped, uprooted, or standing) differed among five common canopy species and was significantly correlated with stem apparent elastic modulus (relative flexibility). Species that tended to snap had significantly higher apparent elastic moduli than those that remained standing or were uprooted. Wood density and stem diameter were not significantly related to stem failure mode. Native trees had a higher percentage per species of standing individuals but also had increased uprooting. Nonnative tree species were more often snapped and fewer were standing after the hurricane. The higher incidence of stem failure for introduced canopy trees may increase the spread of alien understory species following wind disturbance events. These relationships provide a simple means to predict relative differences in stem failure due to high wind conditions and should be considered in planning reforestation efforts on the Hawaiian Islands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-150
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Acacia koa
  • Biomechanics
  • Disturbance
  • Elastic modulus
  • Hawaii; hurricane
  • Metrosideros polymorpha
  • Wind
  • Wood density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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