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Individual Highlight

Analyzing drought exposure and vulnerability in a tropical agricultural system

Photo of Maps display the maximum spatial extent of drought conditions and drought severity in seven drought periods from 2000 to 2016Maps display the maximum spatial extent of drought conditions and drought severity in seven drought periods from 2000 to 2016Snapshot : Correlating conservation practices and drought vulnerability in Puerto Rico to highlight agricultural areas vulnerable to drought conditions

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gould, William A.Alvarez-Berrios, Nora
Research Location : Puerto Rico
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2018
Highlight ID : 1489


Forest Service scientists assessed the geographic extent of agricultural conservation practices incentivized by US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and evaluated their large-scale contribution to drought adaptability in Puerto Rico. Using information from spatial databases and interviews with experts, scientists assessed the spatial correlation between drought-related practices (e.g. cover crops, ponds) and areas exposed to drought as identified by the US Drought Monitor. Between 2000 and 2016, Puerto Rico experienced seven drought episodes concentrated around the south, east and southeastern regions. The most profound drought occurred between 2014 and 2016 when the island experienced 80 consecutive weeks of moderate drought, 48 of severe drought and 33 of extreme drought conditions. A total of 44 drought-related conservation practices were applied at 6984 locations throughout 860 km2 of farmlands between 2000 and 2016 through the NRCS-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). While these concentrations strongly correlated with areas exposed to moderate drought conditions, >80% did not coincide with areas that experienced severe or extreme drought conditions, suggesting that areas highly exposed to drought conditions generally lacked drought preparedness assisted by EQIP. Climate projections indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of drought events, particularly in the eastern region of Puerto Rico. This analysis highlighted the need to implement more conservation practices in areas subject to drought intensification and exposure. Recommendations include raising producer awareness of past and future exposure and making programs more accessible to a broader audience

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Eva Holupchinski
  • ¬†Stephen J.¬†Fain