Water, Energy, and Biogeochemical Budgets (WEBB) Program

Archival photographs showing land use history in the Luquillo WEBB study area


Photo of men and oxen clearing forest in the Luquillo Mountains, 1930'sClearing of forest, Luquillo mountains, 1930's.

Oxen teams were used throughout the central mountains of Puerto Rico to clear forest in small plots (typically several hectares of less). Economically valuable hardwoods were removed first. After forest was removed, subsistence (root vegetables, plantains) and cash (tobacco, sugar cane) crops were alternated during the year 'round growing season. (photograph from International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico).



Photo of woman cutting firewood, 1945Woman cutting fuelwood, 1945.

Forest clearing occurs with varying intensities and for several purposes. Cutting and gathering of fuelwood was required for food preparation in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the Luquillo mountains and elsewhere in the central mountains of Puerto Rico. (photograph from International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico).



Photo of a rural family dwelling made of wood and corregated  metal in the Toro Negro area of the Luquillo Mountains, 1940's Rural family, 1940's, Toro Negro area of Luquillo mountains, Puerto Rico.

Subsistence farming families living on small plots of steeply sloping land in the mountains of Puerto Rico were forced to over-utilize their land. The eventual exhaustion of soil resources was a contributing factor leading to the abandonment of farmland and migration to San Juan and cities of the United States. (photograph taken by F.H. Wadsworth, from International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico)



Photo of landscape in the central mountains of Puerto RicoLandscape, central mountains of Puerto Rico.

Intensive agricultural and grazing land use resulted in mosaic of pasture, small subsistence plots and patches of secondary forest on steep hillslopes. (photograph from International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico).



Photo of landscape with a tobacco barn from the central mountains of Puerto RicoLandscape with tobacco barn, central mountains of Puerto Rico.

By the middle of the 20th century 94 percent of the 9,000 km2 island of Puerto Rico had been deforested1. The island began to industrialize in the 1950's and agricultural land use declined. By the late 1980's, about 35 percent of the island was forested. (photograph from International Institute of Tropical Forestry, U.S. Forest Service, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico).

(1Birdsey, R.A., and Weaver, P.L., 1987, Forest area trends in Puerto Rico: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service Research Note SO-331, 5 p.)

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America home page. USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://water.usgs.gov/webb/luquillo/archive.html
Page Contact Information: Linda Friedman
Page Last Modified: Friday, 03-Sep-2010 13:35:43 EDT