Rapid assessments of the change in ecosystem services derived from coarse woody vegetation were performed for three municipalities (San Juan, Ponce, Mayagüez) in the island of Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The assessments used two approaches (fine-scale and landscape-level) using computer models within the suite of i-Tree tools (i-Tree Canopy and i-Tree Eco) developed by the US Forest Service. The fine-scale approach evaluated services using ground forest measurements in selected San Juan localities and the landscape approach evaluated services in San Juan, Ponce and Mayagüez using photo interpretation of remotely sensed imagery. Here we present a highlight of the findings of these analyses followed by general recommendations based on results and past experience with urban forest monitoring by the research group. While we are confident in the methodologies used, there are inherent assumptions in the field and modeling approaches. Therefore, the results presented here must be interpreted as estimates with a range of uncertainty rather than absolute values.
Dr. Elvia Meléndez-Ackerman with contributions from Ana Trujillo, Chris Nytch, Molly Ramsey, Ben Branoff, and Sofia OliveroLora
About This Project
A long-term goal of this project has been to evaluate variation in ecosystem services and disservices provided by the residential trees of different locations within the Río Piedras watershed (San Juan, PR). Due to the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and María, we are now using this as an opportunity to document the immediate impacts of these events on residential vegetation and the implications of these changes to the provision of urban ecosystem services.
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What is the context of this research?
Urban trees provide benefits crucial for our wellbeing, some of which are more important to urban residents than others. Over the past years our research team has been studying social drivers of yard vegetation in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Doing so, we have identified some of the most crucial services for residents and city stakeholders, such as temperature reduction, food provision, ornamental value, oxygen production, pollution removal and flood mitigation. For this last component of our investigation, we are using freely available peer-reviewed software developed by USDA Forest Service i-Tree Eco to quantify and valuate the services that yard vegetation provides to us all and document some disservices that might be limiting the establishment of urban trees on residential land.
What is the significance of this project?
The island of Puerto Rico is facing social and ecological challenges that can be addressed to some extent by improving the urban form. Economic crisis, hurricanes, vector borne diseases, heat waves, urban flooding are our new reality. Green infrastructure provides a realistic alternative to cope with some stressors by providing needed services to improve wellbeing and increase resilience. Evaluating and documenting beneficial and problematic traits of our urban green infrastructure can help us understand, design, plan and manage our green spaces to provide us with the functions we need to have healthy cities. Increasing our understanding of potential loss of ecosystem services due to hurricanes impact can inform management decisions and restoration efforts on our urban environment.
What are the goals of the project?
A long-term goal of this project has been to evaluate variation in ecosystem services and disservices provided by the residential trees of different locations within the Río Piedras watershed (San Juan, PR). Due to the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and María, we are now using this as an opportunity to document the immediate impacts of these events on residential vegetation and the implications of these changes to the provision of urban ecosystem services. Funds will support this research which needs a quick response following extreme events and will also provide stipends to students who have lost their source of income due to Hurricanes Irma and María.
Field and Lab assistants stipend
This will be provided for students who have lost their source of income as a consequence of budget cuts, strike and/or hurricanes devastation we have endured over the past year.
We feel extremely fortunate to have uploaded all our data on Dropbox since day one, specially since our computer was damaged during Hurricane Maria! Your support will help us keep our subscription and add upcoming data.
This money will be used to provide gasoline to drive to plot locations. Thank you for keeping us moving!
Food & water
Simple pre-prepared field lunches and water for all field workers and anyone else in need we find along the way during this difficult times. Many thanks for keeping us all fed and hydrated!
First aid kits
First aid kits, repellent and gloves in compliance for current health risks. Thank you for keeping us safe while we work hard!
If you have specific questions or suggestions, please let us know!
We have proposed an ambitious 15 days field schedule starting on October 15 and ending in October 31 (estimated date for classes to start if we get the power back) followed by 15 days of species verification and data entry from November 1 to November 17.
Oct 13, 2017
Oct 15, 2017
Start of field work
Oct 26, 2017
50 Plots Resurveyed
Oct 31, 2017
End of Field Work!
Nov 17, 2017
i-Tree Eco Project Submission
Meet the Team
The Tropical Plant Ecology and Evolution Lab (PI: Elvia Meléndez-Ackerman) provides training and professional experience to undergraduate students and volunteers on i-Tree Ecosystem Assessment tools (among other research projects). Our research will continue to be disseminated in the form of doctoral dissertations, undergraduate theses, journal publications, educational workshops, social media, academic and public presentations as circumstances permit.
Sofia Olivero Lora
I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Environmental Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras. I have a bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences and a master's degree in Forest Management and Biodiversity Conservation. My research and work experience is interdisciplinary at it's core and I am always looking to explore how humans interact with their environment, with the goal of applying knowledge to help solve the pressing environmental problems in Central America and the Caribbean. My major research interest is in social-ecological systems in tropical urban green areas and provision of ecosystem services in urban centers.
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