Climate change effects in El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean region
Understanding the current and expected future conditions of natural resources under a changing climate is essential to making informed management decisions. However, the ever increasing volume of useful scientific information about climate change makes it difficult for managers and planners to effectively sort through and apply the emerging science. This report provides a knowledge base of peer-reviewed climate change science for El Yunque National Forest (also administratively designated as the Luquillo Experimental Forest), Puerto Rico, and the greater Caribbean region. We summarized scientific findings from over 240 peer-reviewed sources, covering a wide range of potential effects including changes to drivers and stressors and the effects of climate change on ecological, physical, social, and economic systems. Projected and observed changes include increases in air temperatures, an extension of the dry season, and changes in cloud cover that may lead to significant alterations to the diverse plant and animal communities of the Caribbean region. Species in cloud forests on isolated mountain peaks may be most at risk, due to sensitivities to moisture and a limited chance for migration. Changes in extreme weather patterns, including an increase in hurricane intensity and more frequent drought events, are projected to alter the distribution of tropical forest vegetation. Tourism patterns and recreational opportunities may change with an increase in extreme weather and impacts from sea level rise. The information presented in this report provides a starting point for natural resource managers, planners, and stakeholders to assess the vulnerability of local resources to climate change as part of a broader decision-making framework.