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Stronger hurricanes taking toll on tropical forests
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Stronger hurricanes taking toll on tropical forests

For South Florida, where development has already wiped out much of the pine rocklands and hardwood hammocks that once covered high ground, that could be a death knell.

When Hurricane Maria sacked Puerto Rico, it did more than take thousands of lives, pulverize houses and dismantle infrastructure. It shredded the island’s tropical forests at an unprecedented rate.

The fierce Category 5 storm, the 10th most intense on record packing ferocious 155-mph winds when it roared ashore, felled trees at twice the rate of previous storms. Some species suffered damage 12 times higher.

Now, with a warming planet expected to produce even more storms like Maria, the planet’s tropical forests are likely to be inexorably altered, according to a new study in the journal Nature Communications.