The Institute was established in 1939 to solve problems of land management in the tropics. Its first challenge was the reforestation of lands that had been degraded by agricultural activity. Later, the Institute focused attention on the establishment of tropical tree plantations for wood production and the properties of tropical woods. The Institute also focused attention on the native and secondary forests of Puerto Rico, particularly their species composition, conservation status, and growth characteristics. In collaboration with other federal and commonwealth agencies, the Institute addressed the problem of the recovery of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. More recently, the Institute has been addressing many questions regarding the scientific basis of tropical forest management while also studying the ecological complexity of native tropical forests in Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America. The following is a partial list of the issues that are currently being addressed by Institute scientists:
- Functioning of managed and natural ecosystems and their effects on soil, air, and water.
- Role of tropical forests in producing and/or removing greenhouse gases.
- Hydrological functioning of tropical watersheds and its implication to water extraction for human consumption.
- Role of natural and anthropogenic disturbances in tropical forest landscapes.
- Techniques for rehabilitating degraded tropical forestlands and managing forest fragments.
- Role of soil organisms in the functioning of tropical forests.
The success of the research program is measured by its results, its effects on land management in the tropics and its influence on policies at local and national levels. Here we list some of the issues for which the Institute has accumulated sufficient knowledge to be able to offer a critical mass of practical information to forest managers and policy makers. We also list Institute products that are in progress and the services that we offer to our clientele. Elsewhere we list all the scientific publications of the Institute, which exceed 1,000 after 62 years of operation.