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    We assessed current and historic land use and land cover in the Luquillo Mountains and surrounding area in eastern Puerto Rico, including four small subwatersheds that are study watersheds of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets (WEBB) program. This region occupies an area of 1,616 square kilometers, about 18 percent of the total land in Puerto Rico. Closed forests occupy about 37 percent of the area, woodlands and shrublands 7 percent, nonforest vegetation 43 percent, urban development 10 percent, and water and natural barrens total less than 2 percent. The area has been classified into three main land-use categories by integrating recent census information (population density per barrio in the year 2000) with satellite image analyses (degree of developed area versus natural land cover). Urban land use (in this analysis, land with more than 20 percent developed cover within a 1-square-kilometer area and population density greater than 500 people per square kilometer) covered 16 percent of eastern Puerto Rico. Suburban land use (more than 80 percent natural land cover, more than 500 people per square kilometer, and primarily residential) covers 50 percent of the area. Rural land use (more than 80 percent natural land cover, less than 500 people per square kilometer, and primarily active or abandoned agricultural, wetland, steep slope, or protected conservation areas) covered 34 percent of the area. Our analysis of land-cover change indicates that in the 1990s, forest cover increased at the expense of woodlands and grasslands. Urban development increased by 16 percent during that time. The most pronounced change in the last seven decades has been the shift from a nonforested to a forested landscape and the intensification of the ring of urbanization that surrounds the long-protected Luquillo Experimental Forest.

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    Gould, W.A.; Martinuzzi, S.; Páres-Ramos, I.K. 2012. Land use, population dynamics, and land-cover change in Eastern Puerto Rico. Pages 24-42 in: Murphy, S.F., and Stallard, R.F., eds. 2012. Water quality and landscape processes of four watersheds in eastern Puerto Rico. Professional Paper 1789-B. Reston, VA (?): U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.


    Puerto Rico, land cover, land use, population dynamics, protected areas, mapping

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