Monday, January 28, 2013

FTV 1/28/2013 Caribbean National Forest

 From Mt. Britton, the forest seems to stretch forever. However, very little is left of the magnificent forests that once covered the island of Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, Puerto Rican forests have been subjected to over use and abuse. With increasing population, the forests were cleared to make way for human settlements, farms, coffee plantations, and other agricultural crops. By early 1900s, probably 85 percent of the original forests were gone.

The Caribbean National Forest contains land that was part of the original forest reserves set aside by the Spanish in 1876. It includes the largest block of undisturbed forest on the island. he Caribbean National Forest is the oldest forest reserve in the National Forest System and has been under some form of management for more than 100 years.

Water is the unifying element and the determining factor for the characteristics of the forest. Over 200 inches of rain, or about 100 billion gallons, fall every year. Eight major rivers have their beginnings in the Caribbean National Forest and provide water and hydroelectric power for towns and rural areas in eastern Puerto Rico. Today critical watersheds, peaks, ridges, and steep slopes are off limits to timber harvesting. As a result, filtered by vegetation, these are some of the purest waters found on the island.

The entire forest is  a wildlife refuge. It has 68 species of native birds, many migratory birds, and numerous reptiles and amphibians. At night, the rain forest resounds with a loud chorus that may include 16 different species of miniature tree frogs -- the beloved coquís of Puerto Rico. The only native mammals are bats.

Motillo (Sloanea berteriana)
The Caribbean National Forest has 225 different species of trees and a highly diverse plant community typical of tropical rain forests around the world. The Motillo , has large buttress roots, typical of many rain forest trees. Such roots help support the heavy canopy of large trees growing in very wet soil. The forest floor is only scarcely vegetated, but the forest canopy is rich with aerial plants: bromeliads, orchids, vines, and arboreal ferns. In addition, Fern trees are among the most beautiful and fascinating plants of tropical forests. These small, evergreen trees have slender trunks and feathery, lacy leaves called fronds. The Carib Indians used the hollow stems to carry and preserve fire. Now these stems are cut for use as planters for orchids and bromeliads or for potting material. Fern trees are also used in home and commercial gardens. The Palo Colorado is a very large tree that may live to be 1,000 years old. Its name comes from its reddish bark, which splits off in thin plates or scales. Large, old Palo Colorado trees are important nest trees for the Puerto Rican Parrot.

Together, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry and the Caribbean National Forest have applied sound forest management principles in Tropical America. Today, plantation forests look so much like native forests that few people can tell them apart. Researchers at the National Park were the first to report decrease in the Puerto Rican Parrot population in the National Forest. Subsequently, a monitoring and research program was begun, and the parrot was given protection under the Endangered Species Act. Over the years, the captive flock has continued to increase, giving hope that the wild population can eventually be reestablished.

Here are some rainforest words to know.
Explore the diversity of rainforest organisms
Can it Be Real?
Tropical Forest Food Chain Challenge
This activity talks about the rain in the rainforest

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