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El Yunque National Forest: U.S. Forest Service Works to Address Urban Expansion

Posted by Teresa J. Jackson, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station in Spanish Forestry
Feb 21, 2017

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. At 28,000 acres, it’s the smallest national forest and the only tropical rain forest the Forest Service owns, boasting the greatest biodiversity among national forests.
El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico. At 28,000 acres, it’s the smallest national forest and the only tropical rain forest the Forest Service owns, boasting the greatest biodiversity among national forests.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is unique for the U.S. Forest Service. At 28,000 acres, it’s the smallest national forest and the only tropical rain forest managed by the Forest Service, boasting the greatest biodiversity among national forests.

However, the northern boundary of El Yunque is only a 45-minute drive from the sprawling metropolis of Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan, and urban expansion in the 8 municipalities surrounding El Yunque increased by 21 percent from 1998 to 2010. Consequently, the forest faces many of the same problems by other natural areas: increased urbanization around their natural boundaries, overuse from tourism, and threats to water resources.

In an effort to minimize the negative effects of urban expansion on the forest, several conservation initiatives have been introduced over the past few decades. Nevertheless, development has continued around El Yunque and land acquisition efforts have progressed slowly, due to the lack of financial resources for these initiatives and poor enforcement.

In addressing this need, Tania López-Marrero, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, published a study in collaboration with the U. S. Forest Service to understand stakeholders’ knowledge about the services provided by El Yunque and the factors affecting these services. The research data may be used to assist in the management and planning of land use, ensuring continued use of the ecosystem services for the people in the communities surrounding the forest and beyond.

Category/Topic: Spanish Forestry

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Comments

Lenora Tooher
Jun 26, 2012

I hiked the El Yunque National Forest with my parents nearby and will never forget my experience. To hear the creaking of the bamboo and the sounds and songs of life in the trees overhead and smell the fresh air would bring joy to all visitors. With the energy of our federal government and the heart of the citizens together we can gain protection for this priceless forest so that all humans can enjoy the beauty as long as possible. It is time to move now!

Lenora Tooher
Jun 26, 2012

Don't feel the positive energy in you yet? Watch this link http://www.whitehouse.gov/performances/gershwin-prize-paul-mccartney
and enjoy Stevie Wonder's performance of 'We Can Work It Out' performed at the White House. We can work it out! Join in on the positive energy for helping El Yunque National Forest!:-)

Aaron Rosenberg and Karen Rosenberg
Nov 19, 2017

We are going to be in San Juan, Puerto Rico in late December, 2017. We want to visit El Yunque. How do we get there? Is there a bus or do we have to rent a car? How was El Yunque affected by Hurricane Maria? We look forward to hearing from you.

Ben Weaver
Nov 27, 2017

@Aaron Rosenberg and Karen Rosenberg - Hello, El Yunque National Forest will remain closed until further notice after Hurricane Maria. Clean up efforts and initial assessments to the Forest's ecological resources and facilities are currently underway. Stay informed: https://www.fs.usda.gov/elyunque