U.S. Virgin Islands’ Forests, 2009
Forest area on the U.S. Virgin Islands held steady, or decreased slightly, from 2004 (46,564 acres) to 2009 (45,163 acres). There were 26,179 acres of forest on St. Croix (49.6 percent forested), 10,343 acres of forest on St. John (85.5 percent forested) and 8,641 acres of forest on St. Thomas (50.1 percent forested). We estimate there to be 85.1 million trees in the U.S. Virgin Islands holding 1.2 million tons of aboveground woody biomass. On average, an acre of subtropical moist forest held 17.2 tons per acre of carbon and an acre of subtropical dry forest held 11.4 tons per acre. The U.S. Virgin Island’s forest trees grew by 1.1 million cubic feet each year but lost 155,221 cubic feet per year to natural mortality and another 40,564 cubic feet to removals, for a net annual gain of 935,651 cubic feet on average. This means a net total gain of 4.7 million cubic feet of wood volume over the entire 5-year period. A total of 202,820 cubic feet of wood were removed from the forests by cutting or land clearance over that same 5-year time period. A total of 118 species were encountered on the forest inventory plots measured in 2009. West Indian mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) replaced black mampoo (Guapira fragrans) as the tree with the highest importance value. Otherwise, the most important species have not changed much since the previous inventory. We continue to see the prevalence of smaller white leadtrees, or tan-tan (Leucaena leucocephala) in both the subtropical dry and moist forests. As the U.S. Virgin Islands’ forest inventory moves from initial measurement to remeasurement of established permanent plots, resource managers and policy makers will have more information to base their decisions on, updated more frequently. Changes can be detected earlier and interventions planned before situations grow too large or complex to easily affect.