U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Appendix A: Caribbean
Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
Introduction and Overview
The Caribbean area includes several
diverse ecosystems, ranging from
tropical wet forest to sub-tropical dry
forest, and including karst forest,
forested herbaceous wetlands,
gorgeous rivers and streams, cave
systems, mangrove swamps and coral
reefs. Habitat modification and Puerto Rico and
destruction are the most significant U.S. Virgin Island locations
threats to the fish and wildlife
resources in the Caribbean. Urban
and industrial development near North Central Basin Focus Area
important areas of flora and fauna
(e.g., National Wildlife Refuges or North Central Basin Focus Area
Commonwealth Forests) threatens The Partners Program selected the
the biodiversity of the Caribbean. north central area basin of Puerto
Rico as the geographical focus area
By the 1920’s more than 90 percent of within the Caribbean. This area is
the island was deforested. Following located between the northern karst
this extensive deforestation, shade region (limestone) and the Cordillera
coffee plantations (Puerto Rico and The coffee region covers Central (volcanic). This focus area
Hawaii are the only areas within the approximately 900,000 acres was chosen based on federally listed
U.S. where coffee is cultivated) species, critical wildlife areas
represented the remaining available Over 78 animal and plant species are identified by the DNER (2006),
habitat, serving as refuges and listed as federally endangered or ongoing habitat improvement and
corridors for many wildlife species. threatened (3 amphibians, 11 stakeholder interest, and the degree
reptiles, 10 birds, 5 mammals and 49 of development pressure (USDA
The coffee region of Puerto Rico plants) within the Caribbean. In
covers an area of approximately 2001). This area provides habitat to
addition, six species are candidates approximately 39 federally listed
900,000 acres. Modern agricultural for listing without federal protection.
practices have converted many of the species, including habitat for
The Commonwealth’s Department of neotropical migratory birds (over 100
shade coffee plantations to sun coffee Natural and Environmental
plantations. This conversion practice species reported), waterfowl species,
Resources (DNER 2006) lists 133 and the river systems that provide
destroys habitat for many wildlife species of concern (3 amphibians, 13
species and migratory birds through habitat to anadromous species.
reptiles, 17 birds, 7 mammals, all Helmer (2002) identified five types of
greater soil erosion, pollution (e.g., species of seahorse, one species of
heavy use of chemical fertilizer and forest for this area, dominated by the
mullet and 48 plants). Moist/Wet-northern limestone forest
pesticides), and reduced biodiversity.
One geographic focus area was type. Over 16 rivers are present
The Caribbean Area is one of the selected for the Caribbean to direct within the focus area; eight of them
world’s centers of biodiversity and most of the Partners Program are the main rivers in the karst
endemism (Helmer 2002). The assistance and funding for habitat region. Most of the drainage within
northern karst region of Puerto Rico improvement projects over the next the karst belt is subterranean
exhibits a high endemism with five years. This focus area shelters a through interconnected passageways
approximately 54 percent of the high biodiversity including karst or caves flowing out to the north
species know only from a this forests, wet tropical forests, coast.
Country. underground river systems, cave The northern karst region is
The Caribbean Islands exhibit a systems, and mangrove marshes. recognized for its water resources,
diverse topography, soils, and including several subterranean rivers
variations in temperature that results and streams, aquifers, springs,
in considerable biological diversity waterfalls, artificial lakes or
over small areas and small distances. reservoirs, lagoons, natural ponds
Based on the Helmer’s (2002) study, and wetlands. The subterranean
the Island of Puerto Rico has rivers within the karst region work
approximately 10 types of forest and as underground routes for water
land cover. movement. This phenomenon is not
present in the volcanic region.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
The Puerto Rican Actions
Parrot is the only Strategies
native parrot Work with
within the United private
States. This landowners
species is one of and other
the 10 most partners to
endangered bird identify
species in the degraded
world. Puerto sites and
Rican parrot carry out habitat improvement
endangerment is projects. Contact and encourage
Type of Forest and land cover map (Helmer 2006) caused by human landowners to participate in the
influence (habitat Partners Program or other
modification and conservation programs available in
degradation) and natural events the Caribbean.
(hurricanes). At the present, only one
population is known; located in El Priority Habitat
Yunque National Forest administrated Riparian
by the U.S. Forest Service. Five-Year Target (FY 2007-2011)
The Puerto Rico Critical Wildlife Four miles
Areas (DNER 2006) and the Puerto Focus Species*
Rico Wildlife Action Plan (PRDNER Neotropical migratory birds;
2006) identified the areas of Hacienda numerous federally listed species
la Esperanza, (administrated by the (e.g., Puerto Rican boa, E )
Puerto Rico Conservation Trust),
Sub-Tropical Wet Forest view Caño Tiburones and Cibuco Swamp Threats
(administrated by the PRDNER) as Human interference such as
an important waterfowl areas. The deforestation for agricultural
Cotto and Coco’s Wards areas were practices, development
included as an important habitat for
the threatened Puerto Rican crested Actions Strategies
toad (private lands). In addition, the Work with all partners to implement
Guajataca cliff (private land) was habitat projects in riparian buffers,
identified as an important nesting including revegetation with native
area for migratory sea birds. In trees, fencing livestock out of the
addition, the Puerto Rico Conservation streams, and providing alternative
Trust received a grant from the watering sources.
Service for land acquisition in the Priority Habitat
Northern Karst Belt view northern karst for habitat conservation Wetland
and important area for migratory birds.
A proposed central mountain Five-Year Target (FY 2007-2011)
Priority Habitat 10 acres
ecological corridor is located within Upland: Karst Area Forest
the focus area and covers 37,000 Focus Species*
acres of private lands. In addition, Five-Year Target (FY 2007-2011) Migratory waterfowl species of
fourteen Commonwealth owned 400 acres concern (SOC) (e.g., Ruddy duck,
protected areas are found, including White cheeked pintail, West Indian
the Rio Abajo Commonwealth Forest, Focus Species*
Thirty-five federally listed species whistling duck), native birds SOC
identified as the release site (fall of (e.g., Little blue heron, Common
2006) for the endangered Puerto (e.g., Puerto Rican Boa, E: Puerto
Rican Sharp-shinned Hawk, E; and moorhen, and least bittern)
Rican parrot. The private lands
adjacent to the Rio Abajo Puerto Rican Parrot, E) Threats
Commonwealth Forest are identified Threats Human activities resulting in soil
by the DNER (Forestry division) and The karst region is vulnerable to erosion and sedimentation, and
the Service as a priority area of human interference, such as poor agricultural activities, such as the use
habitat restoration and enhancement agricultural practices, residential and of fertilizers and pesticides
for the benefit of the Puerto Rican commercial development, and road
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
■ University of Puerto Rico at
■ Metropolitan University
■ Natural History Society
■ The Nature Conservancy
Lugo, A. E., L. Castro-Miranda, A.
Vale, T. del Mar-López, E.
Hernández-Prieto, A. García-
Puerto Rican Crested Toad Project Martinó, A. R. Puente-Rolón, A. G.
(over 11 partners involved). Tossas, D. A. McFarlane, T. Miller,
First tadpole release at Haciendal el A. Rodríguez, J. Lundberg, J. R.
Tallonal (private land) located in the Thomlinson, J. Colón, J. H.
northern karst region. Schellekens, O. Ramos, and E. H.
Helmer. 2001. Puerto Rican karst:
Actions Strategies a vital resource. General Technical
Work with private landowners and Report WO-65, USDA Forest
other partners to identify and carry Service, Washington, D.C.
out habitat improvement projects in Helmer, E. H., O. Ramos, T. del Mar-
wetlands. Assist landowners in López, M. Quiñones, and W. Diaz.
understanding all available 2002. Mapping the forest type and
conservation programs. land cover of Puerto Rico, a
*E=federal listed endangered component of the Caribbean
species; SOC=species of concern biodiversity hotspot. Caribbean
Journal of Science 38:165-183
Stakeholders Involved DNER, 2005. Comprehensive wildlife
The following is a list of stakeholders conservation strategy. DNER,
involved in the Partners Program in Bureau of Fish and Wildlife
the Caribbean Area. Stakeholders Terrestrial Resources Division.
are involved in carrying out program San Juan, Puerto Rico.
mission, vision, activities, project
development and implementation in DNER, 2005. Puerto Rico waterfowl
coordination with the Partners focus area. DNER, Bureau of Fish
biologist. Their support has been and Wildlife Terrestrial Resources
providing technical assistant, Division, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
identifying potential partners, DNER, 2006. Critical wildlife areas.
producing native species, and general DNER, Bureau of Fish and
program actions. Wildlife Terrestrial Resources
Division, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
■ Private landowners
■ Commonwealth Department of
Natural and Environmental
■ USDA; Natural Resources
■ USDA; Farm Service Agency
■ USDA; U. S. Forest Service
■ Department of Agriculture
■ Puerto Rico Conservation Trust
■ EnviroSurvey Inc.
■ Citizen of the Karst
■ Ecokinetics Inc.
■ Iniciativa Herpetologica Inc.