Reforesta, Land Life Company, US Department of Agriculture, National Forest Foundation, Para La Naturaleza, El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources, , Northern Arizona University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Currently our restoration efforts are focused on coastal wetlands and mangrove forests, while our biodiversity monitoring is island wide. Across the tropical island of Puerto Rico, there is high variation in climate, soil parent material, and elevation, from coast to mountaintops – creating a complex ecology across a very small spatial scale; this makes for a unique experimental setting to test ideas across many ecosystems simultaneously.
Primarily we are working with government agencies and non-profit NGOs. Puerto Rico is modern and urban and reliance on the maintenance of natural systems is no longer the dominant factor in livelihood generation. With people abandoning land to move to the cities, there is a great opportunity for ecological restoration. At the same time, as people move off the land, the loss of culture connection to nature may result in neglect of the health of natural systems. A major goal of our restoration work here is to continue to train the next generation of restoration practitioners through career training and K-12 education programs.
While our team has planted only 11,000 trees in rare coastal wetlands, our partner Reforesta has planted 25,000 more. We are also working on a monitoring program using nearly 80,000 planted trees. Centuries of land-use conversion to agriculture, heavy grazing by cattle, and the planting of millions of exotic trees for plantation experiments, has resulted in highly degraded ecological systems. A modern renaissance of conservation ethos in Puerto Rico brings high hope that the land can be restored.
There is great potential to build a large-scale reforestation program in Puerto Rico to achieve millions of trees planted per year. Our biodiversity monitoring project seeks to improve such planting efforts by adding information about the different functionality of the over 400 tree species in Puerto Rico along with studying the potential local maladaptation from climate change and/or incorrect placement of genotypes.