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Individual Highlight

Precipitation and Temperature Trends Along an Elevation Gradient in Northeastern Puerto Rico Examined

Photo of The elevation gradient in northeastern Puerto Rico, from coastal lowlands to the tropical mountain peaks of Luquillo Experimental Forest. USDA Forest ServiceThe elevation gradient in northeastern Puerto Rico, from coastal lowlands to the tropical mountain peaks of Luquillo Experimental Forest. USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Forest Service researchers studied climatic trends along an elevation gradient in northeastern Puerto Rico. Study results showed that differing patterns of precipitation and temperature change through time, across seasons, and with elevational position. Elevational gradients should be further explored in order to understand the effects of future climate scenarios on tropical ecosystems and their biotic communities.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Van Beusekom, Ashley 
Research Location : Luquillo Experimental Forest
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 766

Summary

Tropical ecosystems across the globe are highly sensitive to climate and individual regions are able to support their diversity of species because of their variability of climate across elevation. Forest Service researchers studied patterns of trends in local climatic conditions along a tropical elevation gradient in an ecologically sensitive area of northeastern Puerto Rico. They examined precipitation and temperature records collected over 12 years at 20 sites, ranging from sea level in the coastal zone of the San Juan Metropolitan area up to 1,000 meters (3,280.8 feet) at the top of the Luquillo Experimental Forest. An analysis of the driest and wettest months of the rainfall seasons revealed that the driest months are getting slightly wetter over time, while no trend was perceived for the wettest months. Precipitation also appears to increase faster at higher elevations. As for temperature, the daily minimum was observed to increase slightly, and the daily maximum decreased, suggesting that the range of temperatures along the elevation gradient is narrowing. Unlike with precipitation, the pace of temperature change did not vary with elevation position. These results emphasize that differing patterns of climate change across tropical elevation gradients should be explored to understand the effects of future climate scenarios on biological life and the ecosystem services they provide to human communities.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Grizelle González, USDA Forest Service
  • María M. Rivera, USDA Forest Service.