United States

Purchasing Palm Rainforests in Puerto Rico

Project Cost: $318,120

Funding Raised: $318,120

$2840 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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2X The Impact

Thanks to generous support from our donors, we have successfully reached our fundraising goal for this project and this project has been protected!

Rainforest Trust and local partner Para la Naturaleza seek $318,120 to purchase 112 acres of critical amphibian habitat. The proposed project site is in the southeast Sierra de Cayey, between Ulpiano Casal Natural Protected Area and Carite State Forest. Land here is mainly mature secondary montane wet evergreen forest and mature primary Sierra Palm forest.

This ecosystem is one of the island’s most important. The mountains are an epicenter of Puerto Rico’s endemic and threatened amphibian communities. The Carite State Forest in particular is an Important Bird Area and a Key Biodiversity Area.

But the Land Use Zoning Plan, approved by the government in 2015, allows agricultural development in the area. This activity poses an immediate threat to the habitat and water resources. Securing this site will connect two protected areas and enable 10 acres of disturbed land restoration. This restoration will enhance the habitat of at least 10 endangered species.

Photo: The Critically Endangered Palo de Jazmín. Photo by Omar Monsegur.

Fast Facts

Location:
Sierra de Cayey, Puerto Rico

Size/Acres:
112 acres

Key Species:
Interior Robber Frog (CR), Richmond’s Coqui (CR), Palo de Jazmin (Styrax portoricensis-CR), Cricket Coqui (EN), Hedrick’s Coqui (EN), Puerto Rican Robber Frog (EN)

Habitat:
Sierra Palm and montane wet evergreen forest

Threats:
Land use change for agriculture and development, climate change

Action:
Land purchase

Local Partner:
Para la Naturaleza

Financial Need:
$318,120

Price per Acre:
$2,840

Total Carbon Storage (Mt CO2):
8,550

Biodiversity

The Sierra de Cayey mountains are the second richest center of tree species richness and endemism in Puerto Rico.

The resident and Critically Endangered Palo de Jazmin is one of Puerto Rico’s rarest endemic tree species. Elevation, high humidity and varied topography create diverse microclimates that also sustain rich fern and lycophyte diversity. The mountains are home to a rich and endemic amphibian community. In fact, 15 of Puerto Rico’s 18 endemic amphibian species live in Sierra de Cayey. This includes historical records of three Critically Endangered, possible extinct species (Eleutherodactylus jasperi, Eleutherodactylus karlschmidti and Eleutherodactylus eneidae). To date, researchers have found 217 species in the area. Twenty-two percent of these are endemic species. The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources also classifies 12 of them as critical elements and IUCN lists at least 10 of them as threatened. The exact status of amphibian populations in the area is unknown. But studies have shown local and global amphibian numbers in decline. Climate change, diseases such as chytrid fungus, drought, high temperatures and others factors can threaten amphibian populations.  

Photo: The Critically Endangered Richmond Coqui (Eleutherodactylus richmondi). Photo by Para la Naturaleza.
 

Challenges

The main challenges to the species and their habitat in the proposal site are climate change and land use change.

Climate projections suggest upcoming changes in temperature and rainfall, and amphibian populations are sensitive to temperature shifts and humidity variation. Hence, these changes may stress populations and increase mortality. Acquiring the project site would increase habitat and endangered species protection by avoiding land use change and ensuring microclimate sustainability. At the same time, this project will connect the landscape with and enable species to access habitat in the Carite State Forest.  

Photo: Rainforest burned for agriculture. Photo by Jamidwyer.
 

Communities

Protection will safeguard the water supply of over 200,000 people in the San Juan Metropolitan Area.

The project site is a rural area with a sparse population, and the partner has identified no community organizations. But the area is in the headwaters of the Río Grande de Loíza. Hence, protection will safeguard the water supply of over 200,000 people in the San Juan Metropolitan Area.  

Photo: This project protects the water supply of over 200,000 people in San Juan, pictured here. Photo by Breezy Baldwin.
 

Solutions

Funding for the project will purchase 112 acres in the Carite Key Biodiversity Area.

Para la Naturaleza will integrate the land into its network of natural protected areas to extend the Ulpiano Casal Natural Protected Area. They will develop a management plan with goals, objectives and actions for the next 10 years. Immediate actions will include marking boundaries, creating an inventory of the area’s biodiversity and restoring 10 acres of disturbed habitat. (photo: The Critically Endangered Cricket Coqui (Eleutherodactylus gryllus). Photo by Para la Naturaleza.)