Tropical Deforestation and Spatial Patterns of Recolonization by Exotic and Native Trees in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

Authors: Thomas Ruzycki*, Colorado State University, Eileen Helmer, USDA Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Puerto Rico
Topics: Remote Sensing, Biogeography, Latin America
Keywords: tropical deforestation, recolonization, Puerto Rico,Virgin Islands
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Lincoln 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: Download



We mapped native, endemic, and introduced (i.e. exotic) tree species counts, relative basal areas of functional groups, species basal areas, and forest biomass from forest inventory data, satellite imagery, and environmental data for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Imagery included time series of Landsat composites and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-based phenology. Environmental data included climate, land-cover, geology, topography, and road distances. Large-scale deforestation and subsequent forest regrowth are clear in the resulting maps decades after large-scale transition back to forest. Stand age, climate, geology, topography, road/urban locations, and protection are clearly influential. Unprotected forests on more accessible or arable lands are younger and have more introduced species and deciduous and nitrogen-fixing basal areas, fewer endemic species, and less biomass. Exotic species are widespread—except in the oldest, most remote forests on the least arable lands, where shade-tolerant exotics may persist. Although the maps have large uncertainty, their patterns of biomass, tree species diversity, and functional traits suggest that for a given geoclimate, forest age is a core proxy for forest biomass, species counts, nitrogen-fixing status, and leaf longevity. Geoclimate indicates hard-leaved species commonness. Forest attribute models trained with a tree species ordination and mapped with nearest neighbor substitution (Phenological Gradient Nearest Neighbor method, PGNN) yielded larger correlation coefficients for observed vs. mapped tree species basal areas than Cubist regression tree models trained separately on each species. In contrast, Cubist regression tree models of forest structural and functional attributes yielded larger such correlation coefficients than the ordination-trained PGNN models.

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