Puerto Rico’s forests are a combination of native and naturalized species. The resulting mosaic forest compositions present management challenges that require understanding and vision. Our Forest Action Plan guides how Puerto Rico will identify and conserve high priority forest ecosystems and landscapes currently under private control as well as actively and sustainably manage private forested land. The plan also identifies threats to the heath of forested ecosystems and lays out strategies to minimize them. Finally, the Action Plan provides strategies to protect and enhance water quality and quantity, improve air quality and conserve energy, to protect, conserve and enhance wildlife and fish habitat, to connect people to trees and forests, to engage them in environmental stewardship activities, and to manage trees and forests to mitigate and adapt to global climate change.
Wildfire: Managing wildfires is an important global and local issue given interactions among people, fire and wild lands. Understanding the ecological and social consequences of wildfires in Puerto Rican natural ecosystems is fundamental and key for important conservation and management actions to be planned. Fire prevention efforts need to reach private forest owners and others as the majority of fires in Puerto Rico are set by people.
Forest Fragmentation: The increase of population densities in rural land puts pressure on the young forests and open space on the urban fringe (Martinuzzi et al 2006). Forest fragmentation can involve a simultaneous decrease in the average size of habitat patches, an increase in the average distance between patches, and an increase in edge effects. As a general rule, large fragments have more wildlife species and can sustain larger wildlife populations than small fragments. As the amount of fragmentation increases, species populations may become isolated, and the migration of individuals and populations between areas of suitable habitat becomes more difficult.
Climate Change: The effects of climate change have the potential to be devastating in many areas of the world, including islands with substantial portions of its coastal plain composed of lowlands close to current sea level. A rise in sea level of just one foot could have a detrimental effect on coastal forests areas, including mangrove systems and other coastal swamps characteristic of lower saline intrusion. Puerto Rico’s coastal forests act as nurseries for fish, habitat for other wildlife, and sediment filters for runoff. Climate change is likely to exacerbate many of the existing threats to forest ecosystems.