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Abstract

Impacts of tropical hurricanes on the vegetation cover of the lower basin and estuary of San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Abstract

Introduction: Tropical hurricanes modify composition and structure of ecosystems. Objective: To analyze the impact of tropical hurricanes on the recovery and resilience of vegetation cover. Materials and methods: The resilience of the lower basin and estuary of San Jose del Cabo was evaluated by studying the impact of 11 tropical hurricanes (2013-2017) on the vegetation cover. Landsat images were analyzed for each event and two SPOT-6 images for the Hurricane Lidia. The areas of gain, stability, loss and recovery of vegetation types were estimated based on the analysis of changes in the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Results and discussion: Average stability of vegetation cover was 90%; however, in the case of hurricane Odile (2014) and Lidia (2017), stability decreased considerably, with a loss of 35.4 and 20.5%, respectively, being the perennial herbaceous vegetation the most affected. One year after Odile and Lidia, recovery was 8.4% and 25.4%, respectively; the most recovered vegetation type was reed-tree. The analysis of SPOT-6 images allowed the detailed observation of Lidia's effect on palm grove. The main cause of its loss was runoff from the stream, which favored the growth of invasive species (Arundo donax L. and Tamarix sp.); furthermore, it was estimated that 1.4 ha were deforested, and an area of 20 ha affected by fire in 2017. Conclusion: Vegetation is resilient to tropical hurricanes; however, events that provide more than 50% of annual precipitation decrease the capacity of vegetation to recover.