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Individual Highlight

Assessing Vulnerabilities to Climate Change in Tropical Agriculture and Forestry

Photo of Local produce at the farmers market in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Victor Cuadrado – ThinkaMapLocal produce at the farmers market in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Victor Cuadrado – ThinkaMapSnapshot : New Vulnerability Assessment from the USDA Caribbean Climate Sub Hub.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gould, William A. 
Research Location : Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands
Research Station : International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)
Year : 2015
Highlight ID : 801


Agriculture and forestry in the U.S. Caribbean includes products like coffee, tropical fruits, ornamentals, beans, root crops, livestock, dairy, and wood products. Historically, the people of the U.S. Caribbean have depended on these products for subsistence and export as valuable cash crops. Currently, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands import the vast majority of their agricultural products and local production is well below its full potential. Increasing production capacity can improve food security, standards of living and public health, economic vitality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide opportunities to increase human well-being in rural communities. Regional climate models project a strong warming and drying trend over the next century, with increasingly intense storms. This could lead to more prolonged droughts as well as increased susceptibility to damage from flooding and wind events. The region's wide array of crops and cultivation practices will exhibit a range of responses to these changes, but small-holder, limited resource producers that comprise the majority of the regional demographic may be less-well positioned economically to adapt to, or recover from, climatic perturbations. A regional vulnerability assessment by the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub highlights vulnerabilities to climate change and increasing climate variability in the region's forestry and agricultural sectors: Food security is reliant on local productivity but climate change and extreme weather events in other regions also impact global markets and maritime shipping, which can affect U.S. Caribbean food security and agriculture production. Climate change and weather variability are likely to make prices more volatile, which influence landowner decisions and farming success. The arrival and proliferation of new and existing pests may adversely affect humans, livestock, wildlife and crops. Sea level rise and salt water intrusion are affecting coastal populations, aquifers, and prime agricultural lands. Conflicting demands on a limited land base highlight the need for multi-sector adaptation planning. Unemployment and poverty levels are among the highest in the United States. Producers may lack access to expertise, information, research, financing or equipment for adaption. And, high production costs, labor issues, and competition from external producers present barriers to expansion of local production.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Kathleen McGinley
  • Ann Perry, ARS Public Affairs Specialist
  • Isabel K. Pares, Caribbean Sub Hub Coordinator
  • Rachel F. Steele, National Climate Hubs Coordinator.
  • Stephen J. Fain, Caribbean Sub Hub Strategic Analyst, Yale University graduate student