land cover

Mapping the Forest Type and Land Cover of Puerto Rico, a Component of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot

ELMER,E. H.; RAMOS, O.; LÓPEZ, T. DEL M.; QUIÑONES, M.; DIAZ, W. 2002. Mapping the Forest Type and Land Cover of Puerto Rico, a Component of the Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspot. Caribbean Journal of Science, Vol. 38, No. 3-4, 165-183, .

The Caribbean is one of the world’s centers of biodiversity and endemism. As in similar regions, many of its islands have complex topography, climate and soils, and ecological zones change over small areas. A segmented, supervised classification approach using Landsat TM imagery enabled us to develop the most detailed island-wide map of Puerto Rico’s extremely complex natural vegetation cover. Many Caribbean forest formations that are not spectrally distinct had distributions approximately separable using climatic zone, geology, elevation, and rainfall. Classification accuracy of 26 land cover and woody vegetation classes was 71 % overall and 83 % after combining forest successional stages within image mapping zones. In 1991-92, Puerto Rico had about 364,000 ha of closed forest, which covered 41.6 % of the main island. Unlike previous island-wide mapping, this map better identifies the spatial distributions of forest formations where certain groups of endemic species occur. Approximately 5 % of Puerto Rico’s forest area is under protection, but the reserve system grossly underrepresents lowland moist, seasonal evergreen forests.


Heartsill-Scalley T, Aide TM. 2003. Riparian vegetation and stream condition
in a tropical agriculture–secondary forest mosaic. Ecological
Applications 13: 225–234.

Changes in land cover from forest to agriculture often alter riparian vegetation, which modifies the physical conditions of streams. To understand the impacts of different categories of land cover on riparian and stream habitats, we sampled riparian vegetation and stream conditions in three adjacent watersheds in southeastern Puerto Rico. Land cover categories (pasture, mixed, and forest) were determined using aerial photographs. Vegetation structure and composition and characteristics of streams were assessed for 35 riparian sites. Sites were located along first-order streams, at 400–600 m elevation in the wet-forest life zone. Understory vegetation in the forest sites was mainly shrubs, herbs, and ferns, whereas the mixed and pasture sites were dominated by grasses, vines, and bare soil. Syzygium jambos and Spathodea campanulata, nonnatives, and Guarea guidonia, a native, were the most common tree species in the riparian areas. Surrounding land cover explained .60% of the variation among stream sites. There was a positive relationship between tree cover and percentage of dissolved oxygen, and a negative relationship between tree cover and percentage of substrata covered by sediments from eroded soil. The amount of woody debris in the streams tended to increase with forest cover. Overall, land cover is a landscape feature that effectively characterized riparian understory cover, tree species composition, and stream condition
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