Protected areas of Puerto Rico: Terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity protection.
Conservation of natural resources is a balance of protection, managed use, restoration, and sustainable development. Effective planning and management of protected areas for biodiversity conservation integrates local, regional, and global concerns with scientific research assessing the extent and status of protected areas. Forest Service scientists have mapped public and private lands designated for special protection in Puerto Rico. We identified 115 terrestrial and marine protected areas with 13 of them being exclusively marine. The commonwealth of Puerto Rico owns and manages the greatest area of protected lands (58 percent), followed by the federal government (28 percent) and non-governmental organizations or other private entities (14 percent). Protected areas are concentrated on the high peaks of the Central and Luquillo Mountains, the wetlands of the coastal plains, and the lesser islands and cays of the Puerto Rican Archipelago. These areas are relatively well-protected. Underprotected areas include non wetlands of the coastal plain, the karst limestone hills in northwestern Puerto Rico, and the coastal hills and lower slopes which form an important hydrological and ecological link between the upper mountains, the coastal wetlands, and the near shore marine areas. The map is a product of the Puerto Rico Gap Analysis Project, a component of the United States Geological Survey National Gap Analysis Program. The map is part of the FS Research Map (RMAP) series recently developed at IITF.