Due to their destructive and sporadic nature, it is often difficult to evaluate and predict the effects of typhoon on forest ecosystem patterns and processes. We used a 21-yr record of litterfall rates to explore the influence of typhoon frequency and intensity, along with other meteorological variables, on ecosystem dynamics in a subtropical rainforest. Over the past half century there has been an increasing frequency of strong typhoons (category 3; >49.6 m s-1; increase of 1.5 typhoons/decade) impacting the Fushan Experimental Forest, Taiwan. At Fushan strong typhoons drive total litterfall mass with an average of 1100 kg ha-1 litterfall typhoon-1. While mean typhoon season litterfall has been observed to vary by an order of magnitude, mean litterfall rates associated with annual leaf senescence vary by <20%. In response to increasing typhoon frequency, total annual litter mass increased gradually over the 21-year record following three major typhoons in 1994. Monthly maximum wind speed was predictive of monthly litterfall, yet the influence of precipitation and temperature was only evident in non-typhoon affected months. The response of this subtropical forest to strong typhoons suggests that increasing typhoon frequency has already shifted ecosystem structure and function (declining carbon sequestration and forest stature).
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