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    Author(s): Ariel E. Lugo
    Date: 2002
    Source: Landscape Ecology 17: 601–615,
    Publication Series: Miscellaneous Publication
    PDF: Download Publication  (20.87 B)


    Humans have used Caribbean island landscapes for millennia. The conversion of wild lands to built-up lands or to agricultural lands in these tropical countries follows predictable patterns. Conversion of moist forest life zones and fertile flatlands is faster than conversion of wet and rain forest life zones and low fertility steep lands. In Puerto Rico, these trends are leading to increased built-up areas, environmental surprises, and increased dependence on external subsidies. Changes over the past 50 yr also include a reversal in deforestation and increase in forest patch size in spite of increasing human population density. Present forests have different species composition than the original ones but are indistinguishable in physiognomy and basic function. The reversal of deforestation and forest fragmentation trends, if accompanied by an understanding of the forces that cause the reversal, can result in the development of tools for landscape management. Tropical landscape management requires understanding and application of natural resilience mechanisms of ecosystems, greater use of ecological engineering approaches to infrastructure development, enforcement of zoning laws, enlightened economic development policies, and an understanding and agreement of a conservation vision among all sectors of society. Mixing species in new combinations to form new ecosystems is a necessary step in the development of future landscapes.

    Publication Notes

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    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Lugo, Ariel E. 2002. Can we manage tropical landscapes? – an answer from the Caribbean perspective. Landscape Ecology 17: 601–615,


    Biodiversity, Caribbean islands, Deforestation, Development, Fragmentation, Puerto Rico, Reforestation, Secondary forests, Tropical forests, Tropical landscapes.

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