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Ariel Lugo

Ariel Lugo
Ecologist Director
International Institute of Tropical Forestry
International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Jardin Botanico Sur, 1201 Calle Ceiba
San Juan, PR 00926-1119
United States
Current Research

In addition to continued interest in previous research areas, current research also includes an assessment of the role of tropical forests in global processes; ecological studies of tropical tree plantations; comparisons of plantations and natural forests; response of tropical forests to disturbances; studies of tropical wetlands; studies of introduced species; and the ecological characteristics of novel tropical forests including urban ecosytems.

Past Research

Research has been conducted and published for the following ecosystems: subtropical wet forest at El Verde in Puerto Rico (1963-1966). Granite outcrops in Southeastern United States (1965-1969). Tropical wet forest at the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica (1971). Mangrove forests of Florida (1971-1973 and 1977-1982), Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean (1973-present). Hardwood forest in Gainesville, Florida (1969-1973). Sand pine forest in Ocala, Florida (1971-1973). Río Dulce river in Guatemala (1972). Oklawaha river and floodplain wetlands in Florida (1972-1973). Farm pond in Gainesville, Florida (1970-1972). Fresh water prairie (Paynes Prairie) and associated lakes in Gainesville, Florida (1972-1975). Laboratory microcosms (1969-1975). Subtropical dry forest in Puerto Rico (1974-1977 and 1981-present). Sandhill forest in Gainesville, Florida (1976-1978). Palm wetlands in subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones in Puerto Rico (1980-present).

Research Interest

Tropical forests including mangroves, forested wetlands, and urban forests; ecosystem functioning including productivity, nutrient cycling, succession, and response to natural and anthropogenic disturbances; social-ecological studies including natural processes of novelty and emerging novel ecosystems.

Why This Research Is Important

In the Anthropocene era (era of human domination over the world), tropical forests are more important than ever due to their biodiversity and global world. Understanding the interactions between humans and tropical forests, particularly their response and adaptation to people, becomes a vital activity if we are to maintain a healthy relationship with natural systems.

  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ph.D., Ecology, 1969
  • University of Puerto Rico, M.S., Biology, 1965
Professional Experience
  • Director and Supervisory Research Ecologist,  USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry,  1994 - Current
  • Director and Supervisory Research Ecologist,  USDA Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry,  1986 - 1992
  • Project Leader,  USDA Forest Service, Institute of Tropical Forestry,  1979 - 1992
  • Division Head,  Center for Energy and Environment Research, University of Puerto Rico,  1980 - 1988
  • Staff Member,  Council on Environmental Quality, Executive Office of the President,  1978 - 1979
  • Acting Director,  Center for Wetlands, University of Florida at Gainesville,  1977 - 1978
  • Assistant Secretary for Science and Technology,  Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources,  1974 - 1975
  • Assistant Secretary for Planning and Resource Analysis,  Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources,  1973 - 1974
Featured Publications
Other Publications
Research Highlights

Novelty in Tropical Forests

Year: 2020
Identifying interventions that help reduce ecosystem service tradeoffs in novel forests can contribute towards resilient social-ecological technological forest systems. Viewed from the point of view of biodiversity and conservation biology, the future of tropical forests depends on what managers and...

Conserving Mangroves in the Context of the Anthropocene

Year: 2015
Mangroves of the Anthropocene will be on the move as a result of sea level rise and atmospheric warming as well as human activity and therefore conservation efforts must include people through adaptive management practices.

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Content in Forest Floor Litter is Elevated in a Tropical Landscape Recovering from Deforestation

Year: 2014
Fallen leaf chemistry provides a window into the various and often complex factors affecting the availability of nutrients to trees. Both nitrogen and phosphorus content in forest floor litter is current greater in Puerto Rico's novel tropical forests than it was before deforestation when presumably...

Understanding Vulnerability and Sustainability of Urban Social-ecological Systems in the Tropics

Year: 2014
Scientists of the San Juan Urban Long-Term Research Area (ULTRA) publish an interdisciplinary synthesis of social-ecological system research in a tropical city.

A socioecological network for a tropical city

Year: 2011
Traditional urban research involves tree inventories, census activities, water quality sampling, or socioeconomic studies, all conducted by separate scientists on separate locations and with separate questions. Suppose we could create a new coalition of scientists with all kinds of specialties and ...