CONSERVE CRITICAL HABITATS
The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico is dedicated to protecting functional ecosystems and the essential services they provide. One of the key mechanisms employed by the institution to fulfill its mission is land acquisition. By acquiring lands of great ecological, historical or cultural value, the Conservation Trust ensures perpetual protection to the natural communities that thrive within these areas, securing vital ecosystem services necessary for our survival and wellbeing.
Goal: 33% X 2033.
As part of its strategic plan, the Conservation Trust has established as a goal to secure the protection of 33% of our islands’ natural areas by the year 2033, the equivalent to nearly 729,000 acres (295,000 ha) of land, an estimated minimum necessary for the preservation of biodiversity. Our plan calls for the protection
of strategically prioritized land, carefully selected to maximize sustainability of functional ecosystems. Special emphasis will be given to conservation within upstream river habitats and watersheds.
The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico has garnered international recognition for its ecosystem protection and management strategies. With nearly 25,000 acres of protected land under its care and 40+ years of experience, the Conservation Trust has adapted its management strategies over time to ensure maximum sustainability and ecosystem functionality within its protected natural areas.
As part these strategies, the best course of action for managing each particular protected area has been carefully determined. Habitat restoration, species recovery, beach and river cleaning, reforestation, sustainable agriculture, and the development of ecological and historical interpretation programs are some of the projects and initiatives that the Conservation Trust develops, according to the needs and capacity of capacity of each natural protected area.
The Conservation Trust is also committed to
developing management plans for all of its Natural Protected Areas, following the standards and best practices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This well-proven methodological structure has been adopted worldwide and allows international exchange of ecological practices. Currently, every single nature reserve and natural protected area under protection of the Conservation Trust has either implemented a management plan, or has a plan being developed for it.
In evaluating the needs of its natural protected areas, the Conservation Trust determines when it is necessary to restore ecosystems to ensure their health and proper functioning. Habitat restoration projects aim to reestablish and maintain a healthy balance within these natural communities. Keeping in mind the intricate connections that exist within nature, the Conservation Trust carefully considers the best course of action, and designs a tailor-made plan for each area.
Past habitat restoration projects have included the Wetland Restoration and Hydrological Restoration Projects at Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve in Manatí, and the Dry Forest Restoration Project at Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve, Cabo Rojo, among others.
Current restorations projects include the following:
Habitat Enhancements at Salinas Fortuna in Lajas; Planting of Pterocarpus officinalis, a rare native species, in the Pterocarpus Forest Natural Protected Area in Dorado and at Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve in Manatí; planting of native and endangered tree species at Punta Guaniquilla Nature Reserve in Cabo Rojo.
Over the years, the Conservation Trust has been able to determine that native trees are best suited to our islands’ terrain and climatic conditions. In keeping with its mission to preserve ecosystem functionality and increase public awareness about the need for conservation, the Conservation Trust manages a program known as “Árboles…Más Árboles”, which works toward two main goals: reforestation and education. The program is in charge of producing native trees for diverse reforestation projects and to make them available in its nurseries. It also creates and enables active participation opportunities through Encounters with Nature.
The program’s reforestation component calls for the massive production of native tree species, with as many as 60,000 trees being produced every year for internal and external reforestation and habitat restoration projects, sale to the public, and an extensive giveaway during the organization’s
annual fair. The educational component consists of regular tree planting workshops and volunteer planting activities, where participants learn how to properly select, plant and care for native trees, and about the value of reforestation using native tree species.
The Conservation Trust currently manages two main native tree nurseries. One of them is located within the Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, and the other in the Cañón San Cristóbal Natural Protected Area, in Barranquitas. It also manages smaller native tree nurseries within protected areas such as Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, in Fajardo, and at Hacienda Buena Vista Natural Protected Area in Ponce.
Additionally, the Conservation Trust runs a school tree nursery program, Biocomisos, aimed at empowering youth within public schools in Puerto Rico to carry out their own reforestation efforts. For more information on related active participation opportunities, click here.
As part of managing and restoring ecosystems to ensure their proper and healthy functioning, the Conservation Trust determines when it is necessary to take immediate and decisive action to protect and recover certain species within natural communities in its natural protected areas. Species recovery projects usually focus on increasing a particular species’ population within its natural environment, in order to maintain its biodiversity.
Current species recovery projects include the following: Recovery of the Puerto Rican Crested Toad within specific sites at El Convento Caves Protected Natural Area in Guayanilla-Peñuelas and Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve in Manatí; increasing the population of Pterocarpus officinalis in Dorado.
Beach and River Cleaning
Puerto Rico is endowed with great hydrological resources. Its water wealth, however, is threatened by urban sprawl, overdevelopment, and pollution, among other factors. As part of its management strategies, the Conservation Trust must makes sure that all environmental components within its protected areas are functioning in a healthy manner, beginning with the bodies of water that provide the basis for many of the biological and physical processes that take place within nature. To do so, the Conservation Trust regularly carries out activities sometimes involving the active participation of the public, in order to monitor and clean bodies of water within and near its natural protected areas.
For more information on available opportunities to help in managing water resources,click here.