Mapping and characterizing social-ecological land systems of South America
Humans place strong pressure on land and have modified around 75% of Earth’s terrestrial surface. In this context, ecoregions and biomes, merely defined on the basis of their biophysical features, are incomplete characterizations of the territory. Land system science requires classification schemes that incorporate both social and biophysical dimensions. In this study, we generated spatially explicit social-ecological land system (SELS) typologies for South America with a hybrid methodology that combined data-driven spatial analysis with a knowledge-based evaluation by an interdisciplinary group of regional specialists. Our approach embraced a holistic consideration of the social-ecological land systems, gathering a dataset of 26 variables spanning across 7 dimensions: physical, biological, land cover, economic, demographic, political, and cultural. We identified 13 SELS nested in 5 larger social-ecological regions (SER). Each SELS was discussed and described by specific groups of specialists. Although 4 environmental and 1 socioeconomic variable explained most of the distribution of the coarse SER classification, a diversity of 15 other variables were shown to be essential for defining several SELS, highlighting specific features that differentiate them. The SELS spatial classification presented is a systematic and operative characterization of South American social-ecological land systems. We propose its use can contribute as a reference framework for a wide range of applications such as analyzing observations within larger contexts, designing system-specific solutions for sustainable development, and structuring hypothesis testing and comparisons across space. Similar efforts could be done elsewhere in the world.
Author(s): Zarbá, L., M. Piquer-Rodríguez, S. Boillat, C. Levers, I. Gasparri, T. Aide, N. L. Álvarez-Berríos, L. O. Anderson, E. Araoz, E. Arima, M. Batistella, M. Calderón-Loor, C. Echeverría, M. Gonzalez-Roglich, E. G. Jobbágy, S.-L. Mathez-Stiefel, C. Ramirez-Reyes, A. Pacheco, M. Vallejos, K. R. Young and R. Grau.
Source: U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry and collaborators.
Citation: Zarbá, L., M. Piquer-Rodríguez, S. Boillat, C. Levers, I. Gasparri, T. Aide, N. L. Álvarez-Berríos, L. O. Anderson, E. Araoz, E. Arima, M. Batistella, M. Calderón-Loor, C. Echeverría, M. Gonzalez-Roglich, E. G. Jobbágy, S.-L. Mathez-Stiefel, C. Ramirez-Reyes, A. Pacheco, M. Vallejos, K. R. Young and R. Grau. 2022. Mapping and characterizing social-ecological land systems of South America. Ecology and Society 27 (2):27. [online] URL: https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol27/iss2/art27/
Social-ecological interactions in a disaster context: Puerto Rican farmer households’ food security after Hurricane Maria
Islands are uniquely vulnerable to extreme weather events and food insecurity, and have additional response challenges due to their limited landmasses and economies, isolation, colonial legacies, and high dependence of food imports. Domestic farmers have a key role in producing food for island communities like Puerto Rico, which can safeguard food security when food importation may be challenging. Nevertheless, in the context of disaster, farmers themselves may be vulnerable to food insecurity and unable to contribute to domestic markets. This paper examines Puerto Rican farmers households’ food security in the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria using a social-ecological lens. Survey data from 405 farmers gathered eight months after Maria, coupled with biophysical data from the hurricane’s impacts (winds, rains, and landslides), were analyzed. Overall, 69% of farmers experienced at least one month of food insecurity in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and 38% reported persistent food insecurity (three months or more). A multinomial logistic regression suggests that biophysical impacts, but especially social factors, such as age and constraint access to external sources of support, are linked with persistent food insecurity. This suggests that the biophysical impacts of the hurricane interact with existing infrastructure and social resources to affect farmer vulnerability and the food environment in different ways. Thus, strengthening adaptive capacity in multiple domains can help farmers and vulnerable populations better navigate the disruptions faced during disasters to alleviate food insecurity.
Author(s): Luis Alexis Cruz Rodriguez, Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos, Meredith Niles
Source: U.S. Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Food Systems Graduate Program, University of Vermont,
Gund Institute for the Environment, University of Vermont
Citation: Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz et al 2022 Environ. Res. Lett. 17 044057
Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Climate Change: Shared Challenges in Agriculture, Forestry, and Opportunities for Collaboration
Cuba and Puerto Rico have much in common and have been referred to in a poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tío as “…son de un pájaro las dos alas” (two wings of one bird). Throughout their histories, they have faced similar challenges in maintaining food security and ecosystem health. Global climate change now threatens both islands with parallel challenges to their similar cropping systems, forests, and producer demographics. Rising temperatures and resultant shifts in climate patterns have led to an increased occurrence of drought, punctuated by tropical storms and hurricanes of increasing intensity. Both Puerto Rico and Cuba have historically found innovative ways to harness the ingenuity and resilience of their people. Building new partnerships and frameworks for technology transfer, knowledge sharing, and innovation across the Caribbean islands has the potential to enhance adaptive capacity, food security, and ecosystem services, and to ensure that the islands are prepared for climatic changes in coming decades. This report provides a brief historical overview of the agricultural and forestry sectors in Cuba, outlines regional climate projections and their expected effects on working lands in both Cuba and Puerto Rico, and broadly assesses adaptive capacity and vulnerability, making suggestions for building adaptive and resilient working lands systems.
Author(s): Stephen J. Fain, Kathleen McGinley, William A. Gould, Isabel K. Parés, and Grizelle González
Source: U.S. Forest Service International Insitute of Tropical Forestry General Technical Report
Citation: Fain, Stephen J.; McGinley, Kathleen; Gould, William A.; Parés, Isabel K.; González, Grizelle. 2020. Cuba, Puerto Rico, and climate change: shared challenges in agriculture, forestry, and opportunities for collaboration. Gen. Tech. Rep. IITF-GTR-49. San Juan, PR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry. 39 p.
Opportunities and Challenges for Hurricane Resilience on Agricultural and Forest Land in the U.S. Southeast and Caribbean
Three storms in the 2017 hurricane season caused $265 billion in damages in the U.S. Southeast and Caribbean, including billions in losses in the agriculture and forestry sector. Climate change projections indicate that such disastrous hurricane seasons are becoming more normal. Working land management sectors need to prepare for this future. However, few studies evaluate hurricane resilience strategies, or challenges faced by land managers surrounding hurricane events. Boundary organizations are critical to hurricane preparedness and recovery, advising land managers before hurricanes, and often supporting recovery efforts. Here, we rely on public advisors’ experiences to understand how land managers pursue hurricane resilience. Using focus groups and an online survey of three agencies in the Southeast U.S. and U.S. Caribbean (n = 607), we identify challenges faced by land managers before and after hurricanes, and the strategies they implement to minimize damage. We learn that land managers are faced with many diverse and unique challenges related to hurricanes, but that long-term planning for hurricane events is uncommon compared to shorter-term preparedness and recovery activities. Efforts towards hurricane resilience should incorporate local needs, align with other land management goals, and increase overall resilience to climate change and related stressors. The results of this research can guide state/territorial and national-level prioritizations regarding hurricane resilience, as well as identify research needs on hurricane resilience strategies.
Author(s): Sarah S. Wiener; Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos; Angela B. Lindsey
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041364 *registering DOI
Citation: Wiener, Sarah S.; Álvarez-Berríos, Nora L.; Lindsey, Angela B. 2020. Opportunities and Challenges for Hurricane Resilience on Agricultural and Forest Land in the U.S. Southeast and Caribbean. Sustainability. 12(4), 1364. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041364
Hurricane Maria in the U.S. Caribbean: Disturbance Forces, Variation of Effects, and Implications for Future Storms
The impact of Hurricane Maria on the U.S. Caribbean was used to study the causes of remotely-sensed spatial variation in the effects of (1) vegetation index loss and (2) landslide occurrence. The vegetation index is a measure of canopy ‘greenness’, a combination of leaf chlorophyll, leaf area, canopy cover and structure. A generalized linear model was made for each kind of effect, using idealized maps of the hurricane forces, along with three landscape characteristics that were significantly associated. In each model, one of these characteristics was forest fragmentation, and another was a measure of disturbance-propensity. For the greenness loss model, the hurricane force was wind, the disturbance-propensity measure was initial greenness, and the third landscape characteristic was fraction forest cover. For the landslide occurrence model, the hurricane force was rain, the disturbance-propensity measure was amount of land slope, and the third landscape characteristic was soil clay content. The model of greenness loss had a pseudo R2 of 0.73 and showed the U.S. Caribbean lost 31% of its initial greenness from the hurricane, with 51% lost from the initial in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) from Hurricane Maria along with Hurricane Irma. More greenness disturbance was seen in areas with less wind sheltering, higher elevation and topographic sides. The model of landslide occurrence had a pseudo R2 of 0.53 and showed the U.S. Caribbean had 34% of its area and 52% of the LEF area with a landslide density of at least one in 1 km2 from Hurricane Maria. Four experiments with parameters from previous storms of wind speed, storm duration, rainfall, and forest structure over the same storm path and topographic landscape were run as examples of possible future scenarios. While intensity of the storm makes by far the largest scenario difference, forest fragmentation makes a sizable difference especially in vulnerable areas of high clay content or high wind susceptibility. This study showed the utility of simple hurricane force calculations connected with landscape characteristics and remote-sensing data to determine forest susceptibility to hurricane effects.
Author(s): Ashley Van Beusekom; Nora Alvarez-Berríos; William Gould; Maya Quiñones; Grizelle González
Source: Remote Sensing
Citation: Van Beusekom, Ashley; Álvarez-Berríos, Nora; Gould, William; Quiñones, Maya; González, Grizelle. 2018. Hurricane Maria in the U.S. Caribbean: Disturbance Forces, Variation of Effects, and Implications for Future Storms. Remote Sensing. 10(9): 1386-. https://doi.org/10.3390/rs10091386.
Correlating drought conservation practices and drought vulnerability in a tropical agricultural system
Recent droughts in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean have emphasized the region’s agricultural vulnerability to this hazard and the increasing need for adaptation mechanisms to support sustainable production. In this study, we assessed the geographic extent of agricultural conservation practices incentivized by US Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and evaluated their large-scale contribution to drought adaptability. We identified concentrations of drought-related practices (e.g. cover crops, ponds) applied between 2000 and 2016. Using information from spatial databases and interviews with experts, we assessed the spatial correlation between these practices and areas exposed to drought as identified by the US Drought Monitor. Between 2000 and 2016, Puerto Rico experienced seven drought episodes concentrated around the south, east and southeastern regions. The most profound drought occurred between 2014 and 2016 when the island experienced 80 consecutive weeks of moderate drought, 48 of severe drought and 33 of extreme drought conditions. A total of 44 drought-related conservation practices were applied at 6984 locations throughout 860 km2 of farmlands between 2000 and 2016 through the NRCS-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Practices related to water availability were statistically clustered along the coasts, whereas soil and plant health practices were clustered in the mountainous region. While these concentrations strongly correlated with areas exposed to moderate drought conditions, >80% did not coincide with areas that experienced severe or extreme drought conditions, suggesting that areas highly exposed to drought conditions generally lacked drought preparedness assisted by EQIP. Climate projections indicate an increase in the frequency and intensity of drought events, particularly in the eastern region of Puerto Rico. Our analysis highlighted the need to implement more conservation practices in these areas subject to drought intensification and exposure. Government programs intended to address vulnerabilities and enhance capacity and resilience may not be reaching areas of highest exposure. Recommendations include raising producer awareness of past and future exposure and making programs more accessible to a broader audience.
Author(s): Nora Álvarez-Berríos; Sandra Soto-Bayó; Eva Holupchinski; Stephen J. Fain; William A. Gould
Source: Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Citation: Álvarez-Berríos, Nora L.; Soto-Bayó, Sandra; Holupchinski, Eva; Fain, Stephen J.; Gould, William A. 2018. Correlating drought conservation practices and drought vulnerability in a tropical agricultural system. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 33(03): 279-291. https://doi.org/10.1017/S174217051800011X.
Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II
Chapter: U.S. Caribbean
Historically, the U.S. Caribbean region has experienced relatively stable seasonal rainfall patterns, moderate annual temperature fluctuations, and a variety of extreme weather events, such as tropical storms, hurricanes, and drought. However, the Caribbean climate is changing and is projected to be increasingly variable as levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase.
Author(s): William Gould; Nora Álvarez-Berríos; F Aponte-González; W Archibald; J.H. Bowden; L Carrubba; W Crespo; Stephen Joshua Fain; Grizelle Gonzalez; A Goulbourne; E Harmsen; Eva Holupchinski; Azad Henareh Khalyani; J Kossin; A.J. Leinberger; V.I. Marrero-Santiago; O. Martínez-Sánchez; Kathleen McGinley; P Méndez-Lázaro; J Morell; M.M. Oyola; Isabel K. Parés-Ramos; R Pulwarty; W.V. Sweet; A Terando; S Torres-González
Source: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment
Citation: Gould, W.A.; Díaz, E.L.; Álvarez-Berríos, N.L.; Aponte-González, F.; Archibald, W.; Bowden, J.H.; Carrubba, L.; Crespo, W.; Fain, S.J.; González, G.; Goulbourne, A.; Harmsen, E.; Holupchinski, E.; Khalyani, A.H.; Kossin, J.; Leinberger, A.J.; Marrero-Santiago, V.I.; Martínez-Sánchez, O.; McGinley, K.; Méndez-Lázaro, P.; Morell, J. ; Oyola, M.M.; I.K. Parés-Ramos, I.K.; Pulwarty, R.; Sweet, W.V.; Terando, A.; Torres-González, S. 2018: U.S. Caribbean. In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. Reidmiller, D.R.; Avery, C.W.; Easterling, D.R.; Kunkel, K.E.; Lewis, K.L.M.; Maycock, T.K.; Stewart, B.C. eds. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 809–871. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH20
Fire weather and likelihood: characterizing climate space for fire occurrence and extent in Puerto Rico
Assessing the relationships between weather patterns and the likelihood of fire occurrence in the Caribbean has not been as central to climate change research as in temperate regions, due in part to the smaller extent of individual fires. However, the cumulative effect of small frequent fires can shape large landscapes, and fire-prone ecosystems are abundant in the tropics. Climate change has the potential to greatly expand fire-prone areas to moist and wet tropical forests and grasslands that have been traditionally less fire-prone, and to extend and create more temporal variability in fire seasons. We built a machine learning random forest classifier to analyze the relationship between climatic, socio-economic, and fire history data with fire occurrence and extent for the years 2003–2011 in Puerto Rico, nearly 35,000 fires. Using classifiers based on climate measurements alone, we found that the climate space is a reliable associate, if not a predictor, of fire occurrence and extent in this environment. We found a strong relationship between occurrence and a change from average weather conditions, and between extent and severity of weather conditions. The probability that the random forest classifiers will rank a positive example higher than a negative example is 0.8–0.89 in the classifiers for deciding if a fire occurs, and 0.64–0.69 in the classifiers for deciding if the fire is greater than 5 ha. Future climate projections of extreme seasons indicate increased potential for fire occurrence with larger extents.
Author(s): Ashley E. Van Beusekom; William A. Gould; A. Carolina Monmany; Azad Henareh Khalyani; Maya Quiñones; Stephen J. Fain; Maria José Andrade-Núñez; Grizelle González
Source: Climatic Change
Citation: Van Beusekom, Ashley E.; Gould, William A.; Monmany, A. Carolina; Khalyani, Azad Henareh; Quiñones, Maya; Fain, Stephen J.; Andrade-Núñez, Maria José; González, Grizelle. 2018. Fire weather and likelihood: characterizing climate space for fire occurrence and extent in Puerto Rico. Climatic Change. 146:117–131. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2045-6.
Assessing climate vulnerabilities and adaptive strategies for resilient beef and dairy operations in the tropics
Cattle ranchers and dairy farmers operating throughout many tropical regions are experiencing major challenges associated with climate change such as higher incidence of heat stress and drought. These effects can result in reduced productivity of rangeland, shortage of nutritional feed, increased heat stress on animals, and high energy costs for cooling. High temperatures and resultant heat stress reduce animal productivity and increase the proliferation and survival of parasites and disease pathogens. Warming reduces the ability of dairy cattle to produce milk and gain weight and can also lower conception rates. This paper reviews research from the Caribbean on heat tolerant traits in bovine and presents evidence that introducing a “slick hair” gene into Holstein cows by crossbreeding with Senepols may increase thermotolerance and productivity. As in other parts of the tropics, principal cattle breeds in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have been largely introduced from temperate regions. Research indicates these animals may be poorly adapted to rising temperatures, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to chronic heat stress and reduced productivity. Adaptive practices have been developed in breeding and pasture management programs including selection for more heat resistant genotypes, silvopasturing and crop diversification in forage production, and optimizing facilities and practices to reduce heat stress. Given the nature of climate vulnerability, an integrated approach to adaptation will likely have the greatest success in reducing future risk for producers.
Author(s): Guillermo Ortiz-Colón; Stephen J. Fain; Isabel K. Parés; Jaime Curbelo-Rodríguez; Esbal Jiménez-Cabán; Melvin Pagán-Morales; William A. Gould
Source: Climatic Change
Citation: Ortiz-Colón, Guillermo; Fain, Stephen J.; Parés, Isabel K.; Curbelo-Rodríguez, Jaime; Jiménez-Cabán, Esbal; Pagán-Morales, Melvin; Gould, William A. 2018. Assessing climate vulnerabilities and adaptive strategies for resilient beef and dairy operations in the tropics. Climatic Change. 146(1-2): 47-58. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2110-1.
Climate change and coffee: assessing vulnerability by modeling future climate suitability in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico
Coffee production has long been culturally and economically important in Puerto Rico. However, since peaking in the late nineteenth century, harvests are near record lows with many former farms abandoned. While value-added markets present new opportunities to reinvigorate the industry, regional trends associated with climate change may threaten the ability to produce high-quality coffee. Here, we discuss the history of coffee in Puerto Rico, outline important bioclimatic parameters, and model current and future habitat suitability using statistically downscaled climate data. Model projections suggest that warming trends may surpass important temperature thresholds during the coming decades.Under high (A2) and mid-low (A1B) emission scenarios for 2011–2040, Puerto Rico is projected to exceed mean annual temperature parameters for growth of Coffea arabica. Warming and drying trends may accelerate after 2040 and could result in top producing municipalities losing 60– 84% of highly suitable growing conditions by 2070. Under the A2 scenario, Puerto Rico may only retain 24 km2 of highly suitable conditions by 2071–2099. High temperatures and low precipitation levels can result in diminished quality and yields, as well as increased exposure and sensitivity to certain insects and diseases. The climate data and models used are based on best current understanding of climate and emission interactions with results best interpreted as projected climate trends rather than predictions of future weather. Planning, innovation, and adaptation provide promising avenues to address current and future socioecological challenges while building a model of sustainable and resilient coffee production in Puerto Rico and throughout the region.
Author(s): Stephen J. Fain; Maya Quiñones; Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos; Isabel K. Parés-Ramos; William A. Gould
Source: Climatic Change
Citation: Fain, Stephen J.; Quiñones, Maya; Álvarez-Berríos, Nora L.; Parés-Ramos, Isabel K.; Gould, William A. 2017.Climate change and coffee: assessing vulnerability by modeling future climate suitability in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Climatic Change. 43(1): 141-. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1949-5.
Declining human population but increasing residential development around protected areas in Puerto Rico
Increasing residential development around protected areas is a major threat for protected areas worldwide, and human population growth is often the most important cause. However, population is decreasing in many regions as a result of socio-economic changes, and it is unclear how residential development around protected areas is affected in these situations. We investigated whether decreasing human population alleviates pressures from residential development around protected areas, using Puerto Rico—an island with declining population—as a case study. We calculated population and housing changes from the 2000 to 2010 census around 124 protected areas, using buffers of different sizes. We found that the number of houses around protected areas continued to increase while population declined both around protected areas and island-wide. A total of 32,300 new houses were constructed within only 1 km from protected areas, while population declined by 28,868 within the same area. At the same time, 90% of protected areas showed increases in housing in the surrounding lands, 47% showed population declines, and 40% showed population increases, revealing strong spatial variations. Our results highlight that residential development remains an important component of lands surrounding protected areas in Puerto Rico, but the spatial variations in population and housing changes indicate that management actions in response to housing effects may need to be individually targeted. More broadly, our findings reinforce the awareness that residential development effects on protected areas are most likely widespread and common in many socioeconomic and demographic settings.
Author(s): J. Castro-Prieto; S. Martinuzzi; V.C. Radeloff; D.P. Helmers; M. Quiñones; W.A. Gould
Source: Biological Conservation
Citation: Castro-Prieto, J.; Martinuzzi, S.; Radeloff, V.C.; Helmers, D.P.; Quiñones, M.; Gould, W.A. 2017.Declining human population but increasing residential development around protected areas in Puerto Rico. Biological Conservation. 209: 473-481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2017.02.037.
Land Use, Conservation, Forestry, and Agriculture in Puerto Rico
Global food security concerns emphasize the need for sustainable agriculture and local food production. In Puerto Rico, over 80 percent of food is imported, and local production levels have reached historical lows. Efforts to increase local food production are driven by government agencies, non-government organizations, farmers, and consumers. Integration of geographic information helps plan and balance the reinvention and invigoration of the agriculture sector while maintaining ecological services. We used simple criteria that included currently protected lands and the importance of slope and forest cover in protection from erosion to identify land well-suited for conservation, agriculture and forestry in Puerto Rico. Within these categories we assessed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) farmland soils classification data, lands currently in agricultural production, current land cover, and current land use planning designations. We found that developed lands occupy 13 percent of Puerto Rico; lands well-suited for conservation that include protected areas, riparian buffers, lands surrounding reservoirs, wetlands, beaches, and salt flats, occupy 45 percent of Puerto Rico; potential working lands encompass 42 percent of Puerto Rico. These include lands well-suited for mechanized and non-mechanized agriculture, such as row and specialty crops, livestock, dairy, hay, pasture, and fruits, which occupy 23 percent of Puerto Rico; and areas suitable for forestry production, such as timber and non-timber products, agroforestry, and shade coffee, which occupy 19 percent of Puerto Rico.
Author(s): William A. Gould; Frank H. Wadsworth; Maya Quinones; Stephen J. Fain; Nora L. Álvarez-Berríos
Citation: Gould, William A.; Wadsworth, Frank H.; Quiñones, Maya; Fain, Stephen J.; Álvarez-Berríos, Nora L. 2017. Land Use, Conservation, Forestry, and Agriculture in Puerto Rico. Forests. 8(7): 242-. https://doi.org/10.3390/f8070242.