A Forest for Life

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A Forest for Life

By: Elizabeth Padilla, East Region Superintendent, The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico

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Pterocarpus Forest – Palmas del Mar

The presence of Pterocarpus forests in Puerto Rico was first recognized in 1882, with 15 forest locations documented in Puerto Rico, most of them concentrated in the island’s northeastern region. This type of forest is characterized by the Pterocarpus officinalis tree, a large species that grows in swamp forests where temporal flooding with saltwater or freshwater occurs during part of the year. Pterocarpus trees may be easily recognized by the enormous buttresses that extend high up their trunks and horizontally along their roots, and by the yellow pea-shaped flowers that they produce from February to September.

Pterocarpus forests provide essential services that support the existence and wellbeing of human beings and other species, such as a great diversity of plants, resident and migrant bird species, and other organisms associated to wetlands. For instance, during a Rapid Appraisal Report for Ecological Value performed in the Palmas del Mar Pterocarpus Forest, the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico inventoried 476 flora species and 52 fauna species, with 13 of those species considered endemic, such as the Ortegón tree, the Puerto Rico whistling frog, the common dwarf gecko, the Puerto Rican crested anole and the Puerto Rican woodpecker. Pterocarpus forests also provide important services that contribute to the hydrological cycle, since they help maintain water supplies by collecting and storing water, recharging aquifers, and protecting coastal aquifers from saltwater intrusion, among others.

In Puerto Rico, the number of Pterocarpus forests has been reduced by 30% due to human activity. The primary causes are related to the cutting down of trees and changes in drainage conditions.

Recently, Palmas del Mar Homeowners Association established a conservation easement through the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, where a Pterocarpus forest and other valuable ecosystems will be protected in perpetuity. In doing so, Palmas del Mar and the Conservation Trust will be collaborating to protect and preserve the ecological, aesthetic and cultural value of these important wetlands.

As a neighbor of the Pterocarpus forest in Palmas del Mar, you have the opportunity to live the ecological value of these lands and enjoy the beautiful life present in this forest. Within the next few months, the Conservation Trust will be developing an Encounter with Nature aimed at offering participants a unique experience in the Pterocarpus forest and allowing them to get acquainted with the flora and fauna species that inhabit the area. We hope that, by the end of 2010, you and your loved ones will be able to enjoy this nature immersion experience.

About The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico (CTPR)

The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to secure functional and healthy ecosystems in the islands of Puerto Rico, and to instill in their inhabitants a sense of responsibility toward the conservation of our natural resources, so that we may count on the ecosystem services that will help us achieve our social, economic and quality-of-life goals. The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico believes that we can achieve our full potential, both individually and collectively, if we can sustain the ecosystem services of the islands of Puerto Rico and respect all forms of life with which we share our natural environment. The Trust carries out this mission by acquiring natural areas and constituting conservation easements, among other mechanisms. As part of its mission, the Trust develops educational programs that focus on generating public awareness and actions that meet the needs of protecting and conserving the island’s natural areas. In addition, it directs a program of tree nurseries dedicated to the propagation, distribution and planting of endemic and native trees in Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico are the only beneficiaries of the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust.

 

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