Skip to main content

Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator (FATES) for Hurricane Disturbance and Recovery

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems
Publication Date

Tropical cyclones are an important cause of forest disturbance, and major storms caused severe structural damage and elevated tree mortality in coastal tropical forests. Model capabilities that can be used to understand post-hurricane forest recovery are still limited. We use a vegetation demography model, the Functionally Assembled Terrestrial Ecosystem Simulator, coupled with the Energy Exascale Earth System Model Land Model (ELM-FATES) to study the processes and the key factors regulating post-hurricane forest recovery. We implemented hurricane-induced forest damage, including defoliation, structural biomass reduction, and tree mortality, performed ensemble model simulations, and used random forest feature importance. For the simulation in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, we identified factors controlling the post-hurricane forest recovery, and quantified the sensitivity of key model parameters to the post-hurricane forest recovery. The results indicate a tendency for the Bisley forests to shift toward the light demanding plant functional type (PFT) when the pre-hurricane biomass between the light demanding and shade tolerant PFTs is nearly equal and forests experience hurricane disturbance with mortality >60% for both the two PFTs. Under more realistic conditions where the shade tolerant PFT is initially dominant, mortality >80% is required for a shift toward dominance of the light demanding PFT at Bisley. Hurricane mortality and background mortality are the two major factors regulating post-hurricane forest recovery in simulations. This research improves understanding of the ELM-FATES model behavior associated with hurricane disturbance and provides guidance for dynamic vegetation model development in representing hurricane induced forest damage with varied intensities.