To help restore the vital ecosystems that were decimated by the passing of hurricanes Irma and María, Para la Naturaleza (PLN) will launch Habitat, a comprehensive ecological recovery program that will engage local communities in sound reforestation practices and will focus on four areas: tree production; tree planting; educational programming; and reforestation site management.
Over the next seven years, PLN will maximize the production capacity of its tree nurseries and plant 750,000 native and endemic trees, which are more resistant to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, across the islands of Puerto Rico. 100,000 volunteers will be trained and engaged in this reforestation effort, which will help recover the forested ecosystems in the natural protected areas, and recover or improve green areas in urban-wildland interfaces and affected communities.
To ensure tree survival rates of 80%, PLN will provide assessment and maintenance of newly planted areas for a period of five years. Tracking of planted trees to estimate survival and growth rates will be conducted by volunteers under PLN’s Citizen Science program who will receive appropriate training and equipment.
As part of this program’s educational component, PLN will offer tree planting and maintenance workshops at their six visitor centers located throughout the main island, and will leverage their tree nurseries in schools to engage school-aged children in the reforestation process.
PLN will open 50 part-time positions to support the implementation of Habitat and will work alongside partners such as Rotary Club of Puerto Rico, who have committed to planting 4,000 trees in 2018 and maintaining them for a period of three years.
Through this massive reforestation and habitat restoration endeavor, PLN will help recover and enhance Puerto Rico’s biodiversity, improve its soil and watershed health, and protect the habitat of its endangered species.
Year one: 50,000 trees produced and 30,000 trees planted.
Year two: 75,000 trees produced and 50,000 trees planted.
Year three: 125,000 trees produced and 120,000 trees planted.
Year four: 125,000 trees produced and 125,000 trees planted.
Year five: 125,000 trees produced and 150,000 trees planted.
Year six: 125,000 trees produced and 150,000 trees planted.
Year seven: 125,000 trees produced and 125,000 trees planted.
Total trees planted: 750,000
Hurricanes Irma and María had a devastating impact on Puerto Rico’s forested ecosystems. Studies from 2007 show that Puerto Rico had over 1.6 billion trees. After the hurricanes, Berkeley University conducted a study with the use of satellite images, yet to be evaluated, to determine the impact of Hurricane María on Puerto Rico’s forests and estimated a loss of 23-31 million trees. This loss of forest cover exacerbated soil erosion and landslides, disrupted water flow, and damaged the habitat of several endangered species.
PLN seeks financial resources for the next seven years to establish and implement the habitat restoration project. They will need to hire personnel, make improvements to their tree nurseries, and acquire heavy machinery and supplies, among others. In addition, PLN is seeking additional external support in the collection, production and maintenance of seeds, and the support of GIS specialists for the creation maps and habitat restoration plans.
PLN will offer partners technical assistance on maximizing tree nursery production and will collaborate with neighboring communities in their rehabilitation and education initiatives.