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    Author(s): Peter L. Weaver; Joseph J. Schwagerl
    Date: 2009
    Source: Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-40.
    Publication Series: General Technical Report (GTR)
    PDF: Download Publication  (3.09 MB)


    The main purpose of this paper is to summarize information about the Cabo Rojo and Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuges in southwestern Puerto Rico. The Cabo Rojo (Headquarters and Salinas tracts) and Laguna Cartagena (Lagoon and Tinaja tracts) occupy 1174 ha and are part of the 10 231-ha Caribbean system of nine refuges. Their major geologic and physiographic features are Sierra Bermeja, the oldest mountain range in Puerto Rico, and the floodplains of the Lajas Valley. Together, the refuges combined contain 9 geologic features and 26 soils’ types. Rainfall averages about 1000 mm/year and hurricanes occur periodically. Among the several vegetation types, including are mangroves, salt flats, littoral woodland, mesquite and semievergreen woodland, coastal shrub, deciduous woodland, and pasture. At least 644 plant species grow on the refuges. Eight of these species are considered rare and endangered, and have formal recovery plans. Refuge mammals include two species of native bats and six introduced species—two monkeys, a mongoose, two rats, and a mouse. Both the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats and Cartagena Lagoon are renowned as wintering habitat for migratory birds where >200 resident and migratory birds have been observed, including 12 island endemics. Moreover, several other species are listed as rare and endangered, or of conservation concern, or as target species for management. Among the reptiles are seven lizards, two geckos, and three turtles (one terrestrial and two marine). Five amphibians (one toad and four frogs) and 18 species of fish (fresh and brackish water) are also present. Six of the wildlife species have formal recovery plans. The major management activities on the refuges include protection against fires, habitat restoration, public education, special uses, and water management at the Cartagena Lagoon and the Salinas salt flats. Habitat recovery has been stimulated through fire control, through livestock removal, and by planting >9,000 trees of nearly 80 species. Public education encompasses nearly 20,000 visits annually to interpretative centers at the Headquarters and Salinas tracts; moreover, another 2,600 visitors frequent the refuges to observe wildlife and take nature photographs, and nearly 4,900 others participate in educational and interpretative programs. Special use permits have been issued to 174 users since 1979, mostly for administrative matters or environmental research. Finally, water management at the Cartegena Lagoon remains a problem, partly because of historical events and partly due to current difficulties. In addition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (F&WS) refuges, six other major protected areas occupy about 6800 ha along the southwestern coast: Punta Guaniquilla Natural Reserve, Boquerón Wildlife Refuge, Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, Boquerón Forest, Parguera Natural Reserve, and Guánica Forest. An additional 23 bird species not recorded on the refuges have been observed in these protected areas.

    Publication Notes

    • We recommend that you also print this page and attach it to the printout of the article, to retain the full citation information.
    • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.


    Weaver, Peter L.; Schwagerl, Joseph J. 2009. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuges and other nearby reserves in Southwestern Puerto Rico. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-40. San Juan, Puerto Rico: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry. 110 p.


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    Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Cartagena Wildlife Refuge, fauna, flora, climate, geology, soils, management

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