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Ecological lessons from an island that has experienced it all




Publication type:

Miscellaneous Publication

Primary Station(s):

International Institute of Tropical Forestry


ECOTROPICOS 19(2) :57-71


Puerto Rico has gone through significant land cover change, going from an island that was forested to one that was agrarian and then finally becoming an urban island. Coastal wetlands experienced dramatic changes as alterations occurred in land cover and an eco-systematic analysis of these changes leads to the proposal of the following five ecological lessons learned from this experience: 1. Coastal landscapes are dynamic and continually changing due to changes in sea level, natural disturbance, and human activity. As a result, changes in cover and the condition of coastal ecosystems are temporary and, at times, apparently reversible. 2. Coastal wetlands are resilient at the local and landscape level and survive a variety of conditions and spatial scales in Puerto Rico’s coasts. 3. The structure and function of coastal wetlands change by adapting in response to acute or chronic anthropogenic disturbances. 4. Coastal wetland species composition change with chronic environmental changes introduced by people. 5. Occasionally, people will create wetland conditions where they did not exist or create conditions that limit wetland development. In situations such as these, new wetlands or structural and functional configurations are created with a combination of new species and even alien species. 6. Coastal wetlands should be defined by their function and not exclusively by their structure or species composition.


Lugo,Ariel E. 2006. Ecological lessons from an island that has experienced it all. ECOTROPICOS 19(2) :57-71

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