Forest conservation and land development in Puerto Rico

Helmer, E.H., 2004. Forest conservation and land development in Puerto Rico.
Landscape Ecol. 19, 29–40.

Abstract: 
In the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, rapid land-use changes over the past century have included recent land-cover conversion to urban/built-up lands. Observations of this land development adjacent to reserves or replacing dense forest call into question how the changes relate to forests or reserved lands. Using existing maps, this study first summarizes island-wide land-cover change between 1977-78 and 1991-92. Then, using binomial logit modeling, it seeks evidence that simple forest cover attributes, reserve locations, or existing land cover influence land development locations. Finally, this study quantifies land development, reserve protection and forest cover by ecological zone. Results indicate that 1) pasture is more likely to undergo land development than shrubland plus forest with low canopy density, 2) forest condition and conservation status appear unimportant in that development locations neither distinguish between classes of forest canopy development nor relate to forest patch size or reserve proximity, and 3) most land development occurs in the least-protected ecological zones. Outside the boundaries of strictly protected forest and other reserves, accessibility, proximity to existing urban areas, and perhaps desirable natural settings, serve to increase land development. Over the coming century, opportunities to address ecological zone gaps in the island’s forest reserve system could be lost more rapidly in lowland ecological zones, which are relatively unprotected.