Hurricane Katrina Forest Recovery

As we work together to tackle the historic challenge that Hurricane Katrina has presented to the forestry communities of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, we hope that this blog will be a valuable resource and tool.

Wednesday, February 1

Hurricane Katrina Impacts on Pine Species: Implications for Landowners

Hurricane Katrina roared through Mississippi on August 29, 2005. In her path, some 1.2 million acres of forestland were damaged. This is about two years worth of annual harvest down in one day. Hardwood bottomlands, pine sawtimber, and recently thinned pine stands were most severely damaged
However, not all pine species were affected equally, and this has significant implications for landowners as they recover from Katrina. Two pine plantations, established in southern Forrest County in 1985, allowed us to determine the impact of Katrina on different pine species. Each of these 20-year-old plantations was planted partly in loblolly, partly in slash, and partly in longleaf pine. All were thinned about 4 years ago.

After Katrina, plots were established in each of the plantations. Data were collected on whether or not the trees were damaged, the type of damage, and other information. Some of the results are listed in the table below.

Several items are worth noting. First, the percentage of trees with no hurricane damage varies considerably by pine species. Only 16% of loblolly pines were undamaged, 52% of the slash pine was undamaged, and 64% of the longleaf pine was undamaged. These differences occurred on both sites, and are consistent with other areas we have observed.

The second thing worth noting is the type of damage. The majority of the damage with both loblolly and slash pines was with snapped trees. Snapped trees rapidly lose the vast majority of their value, sometimes in excess of 90%. Most of the snapped trees went from Chip-N-Saw products before Katrina to pulpwood immediately after Katrina. However, the majority of damage with longleaf pine was in either the leaning or blown over category. Leaning or blown over trees, because their root systems are at least partially intact, hold their value much longer. They are able to be harvested for higher value forest products long after snapped trees have gone for pulpwood.

In light of the damage to thinned loblolly pine stands, these results demonstrate that landowners with property south of Hattiesburg should seriously consider replanting with slash or longleaf pine, as both are more wind-resistant than loblolly pine. This is also important as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated, “it is quite possible that the extreme (hurricane) activity since 1995 marks the start of another active period that may last a total of 25-40 years.”

Contact: Dr. Glenn Hughes, Extension Forester, MSU Extension Service, P.O. Box 348, Purvis, MS 39475. Email Phone (601) 794-0671.


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