Typhoon Impacts on Biodiversity research by curator Rafe Brown and collaborators uses funding from the NSF RAPID program to investigate the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on Philippine biodiversity.
On November 8th, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan arrived in the eastern Philippines as the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded human history. With sustained winds exceeding 320 km/hr, this typhoon’s catastrophic impact was witnessed worldwide; the major metropolitan area of Tacloban City (Leyte Island) was reduced to rubble. The cost in human life and livelihood was immense (>7600 dead or missing, 27,000 injured); approximately 4.5M people were displaced—more than the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina combined. As the task of international relief effort and Philippine government rebuilding begins, an extraordinary opportunity has been presented to the international and scientific community to study the immediate before-and-after consequences of massive natural disturbances for vertebrate communities in the tropics.
With RAPID program funding from NSF, researchers and students from three U.S. universities, six Philippine education and research institutions to re-survey terrestrial biodiversity at forested sites in the central islands of the archipelago. Much like the effort following the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in the U.S., this collaborative effort strives to establish a network of researchers aimed at following the recovery of communities of forest plants and animals after catastrophic disturbance in a biodiversity hotspot archipelago of global conservation significance.
The project will enhance intellectual interaction between U.S. and Filipino scientists and train a new cohort of collaborating U.S. and Filipino graduate and undergraduate students in methods of field-based biodiversity study and analysis. By uniting multiple academic generations and targeting involvement from both students and their academic mentors, this project aims to enable repeated, long term follow-up studies at 5, 10, and 15 years from now.