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Title: Conversion and recovery of Puerto Rican mangroves: 200 years of change

Author: Martinuzzi, S.; Gould, W.A.; Lugo, A.E.; Medina, E.;

Date: 2009

Source: Forest Ecology and Management. 257(1): 75-84.

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: Human activities have dramatically reduced the world’s area of mangroves just as the ecological services they provide are becoming widely recognized. Improving the conservation tools available to restore lost mangroves would benefit from a better understanding of how human activities influence the conservation of these ecosystems. We took advantage of historical information and long-term landscape analyses to relate land use change with the area of mangroves in Puerto Rico. We found that mangroves experienced dramatic changes over the last 200 years, and four distinct eras of change were visible. During the agricultural era (1800–1940) the area ofmangroves declined 45%. As the economy changed to industrial in the late 1940s the area of mangrove increase due to reduced land use pressure on the wetlands. Nevertheless, urban expansion between 1960s and 1970s produced another decline. Public concern for mangrove conservation resulted in the legal protection of all the mangroves in 1972, and since then their area has expanded. We found that past human activity altered the original proportion of mangrove species. The number and size of mangrove-forest fragments was impacted by land use, and urban areas had fewer and smaller fragments than vegetated areas. Uncontrolled expansion of urban areas emerged as a major threat to mangrove conservation. Mangroves are resilient and recover quickly when given an opportunity if the geomorphological and hydrological features of the habitat are not changed by their use. The key to conservation appears to be a combination of the type of human activity in mangrove watersheds combined with strong legal protection. The following steps are recommended: (1) identify the areas that satisfy the ecological requirements of mangrove development; (2) incorporate better zoning regulations tomaintain these areas natural and to protect the fluxes of water, nutrients, and organisms in and out of the system; and (3) monitor results.

Keywords: Forest-land cover change, Restoration, Wetlands, Conservation, Land use, Puerto Rico, Caribbean

Publication Notes:

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.



Martinuzzi, S.; Gould, W.A.; Lugo, A.E.; Medina, E. 2009. Conversion and recovery of Puerto Rican mangroves: 200 years of change. Forest Ecology and Management. 257(1): 75-84.


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