Coming This August--Third Inventory of U.S. Virgin Islands’ Forests
August 15, 2014
St. John, VI — Starting in late August, the U.S. Forest Service will revisit permanent monitoring plots established in 2004 in the forests of St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix as part of a recurring effort to measure and monitor the public and private forest land of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Led by Humfredo Marcano-Vega from the Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) unit, an expert team of biological scientists will complete the inventory in collaboration with the Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry. Information from the inventory is used on a continuing basis to assess the sustainability of forest management practices, evaluate wildlife habitat, chart the effects of hurricanes and other disturbances, and support forest planning and decision-making.
Researchers expect the inventory of Virgin Island forests to take from six to eight months. FIA and collaborators began the inventory of Virgin Island forests in 2004 and completed a second assessment in 2009. Scientists re-measure the monitoring plots every five years to track changes in forest cover, land use patterns, biological diversity, and hurricane damage and recovery. The U.S. Virgin Islands forest inventory is part of the larger 85-year effort by FIA to collect, analyze, and report information on the status and trends of America’s forests.
“We’re very excited about what’s now become a long-term inventory of the Virgin Islands’ forests,” said Rob Doudrick, SRS Director. “The data provides the information needed to plan for the sustainability of Virgin Island forests for the present and for generations to come.”
The National Park Service (NPS) plays an instrumental role in forest management in the US Virgin Islands, and in logistics and in the training for those taking the inventory at the Virgin Islands National Park on St. John from August 19 – 21. “This large-scale monitoring project provides invaluable data to better manage and protect the diverse forests of the Virgin Islands National Park,” said NPS Deputy Superintendent Jayne Schaeffer.
“Recurring forest inventories with permanent field plots are especially important for the Caribbean, where there’s a high reliance on ecosystem services and pressing needs for anticipating potential impacts of climate change,” said Marcano-Vega, research biologist and resource analyst for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “The forest inventory brings together information on the current situation and recent trends that managers and others can use to support collaborative and participatory approaches to managing the forests of the Virgin Islands under future conditions.”
After the forest surveys are completed, FIA will release the information in a report published by the Southern Research Station in 2016 and available then online through TreeSearch. The information will also be available at the FIA website by September 2015.