US Forest Service Research & Development
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  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
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Ariel E. Lugo, Director USFS International Institute of Tropical Forestry

Ariel Lugo

Ecologist Director
International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Jardin Botanico Sur, 1201 Calle Ceiba
San Juan
Puerto Rico
United States

Phone: 787-764-7743
Fax: 787-766-6263
Contact Ariel Lugo

Curriculum vitae (286 KB PDF)

Current Research

In addition to continued interest in previous research areas, current research also includes an assessment of the role of tropical forests in global processes; ecological studies of tropical tree plantations; comparisons of plantations and natural forests; response of tropical forests to disturbances; studies of tropical wetlands; studies of introduced species; and the ecological characteristics of novel tropical forests including urban ecosytems.

Research Interests

Tropical forests including mangroves, forested wetlands, and urban forests; ecosystem functioning including productivity, nutrient cycling, succession, and response to natural and anthropogenic disturbances; social-ecological studies including natural processes of novelty and emerging novel ecosystems.

Past Research

Research has been conducted and published for the following ecosystems: subtropical wet forest at El Verde in Puerto Rico (1963-1966). Granite outcrops in Southeastern United States (1965-1969). Tropical wet forest at the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica (1971). Mangrove forests of Florida (1971-1973 and 1977-1982), Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean (1973-present). Hardwood forest in Gainesville, Florida (1969-1973). Sand pine forest in Ocala, Florida (1971-1973). Río Dulce river in Guatemala (1972). Oklawaha river and floodplain wetlands in Florida (1972-1973). Farm pond in Gainesville, Florida (1970-1972). Fresh water prairie (Paynes Prairie) and associated lakes in Gainesville, Florida (1972-1975). Laboratory microcosms (1969-1975). Subtropical dry forest in Puerto Rico (1974-1977 and 1981-present). Sandhill forest in Gainesville, Florida (1976-1978). Palm wetlands in subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones in Puerto Rico (1980-present).

Why This Research is Important

In the Anthropocene era (era of human domination over the world), tropical forests are more important than ever due to their biodiversity and global world. Understanding the interactions between humans and tropical forests, particularly their response and adaptation to people, becomes a vital activity if we are to maintain a healthy relationship with natural systems.


  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ph.D. Ecology 1969
  • University of Puerto Rico, M.S. Biology 1965

Professional Experience

  • Director and Supervisory Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry
    1994 - Current
  • Director and Supervisory Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry
    1986 - 1992
  • Project Leader, USDA Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry
    1979 - 1992
  • Division Head, Center for Energy and Environment Research, University of Puerto Rico
    1980 - 1988
  • Staff Member, Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President
    1978 - 1979
  • Acting Director, Center for Wetlands, University of Florida at Gainesville
    1977 - 1978
  • Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources
    1974 - 1975
  • Assistant Secretary for Planning and Resource Analysis, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources
    1973 - 1974

Featured Publications & Products


Research Highlights


A socioecological network for a tropical city

Traditional urban research involves tree inventories, census activities, water quality sampling, or socioeconomic studies, all conducted by sepa ...


Conserving Mangroves in the Context of the Anthropocene

Mangroves of the Anthropocene will be on the move as a result of sea level rise and atmospheric warming as well as human activity and therefore ...


Nitrogen and Phosphorus Content in Forest Floor Litter is Elevated in a Tropical Landscape Recovering from Deforestation

Fallen leaf chemistry provides a window into the various and often complex factors affecting the availability of nutrients to trees. Both nitrog ...


Novelty in Tropical Forests

Identifying interventions that help reduce ecosystem service tradeoffs in novel forests can contribute towards resilient social-ecological techn ...


Understanding Vulnerability and Sustainability of Urban Social-ecological Systems in the Tropics

Scientists of the San Juan Urban Long-Term Research Area (ULTRA) publish an interdisciplinary synthesis of social-ecological system research in ...


Last updated on : 10/01/2021