Securing the conservation of endemic trees in Puerto Rico

Conservation problem
Twenty per cent of the 631 Puerto Rican native tree species are endemic. Hurricanes often hit the island so many trees are adapted to them, however increased frequency & intensity of storms now threatens their survival.

Project goal
To secure the conservation of two threatened endemic trees, Garcinia portoricensis (VU) & Ravenia urbanii (EN), by prospecting wild populations, collating ecological information, propagating materials & reinforcing wild sites.

Which species and why?

Garcinia portoricensis is known from less than 10 locations in Puerto Rico Island and Ravenia urbanii is currently known from less than five locations, including El Yunque National Forest, and areas near Carite State Forest. These sites were badly impacted by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017 and suffered significant tree cover loss. It is thought that some of the populations may have disappeared.

Detail of Ravenia urbanii flower (Image: Thrity Vakil)

Garcinia portoricensis foliage (Image: Thrity Vakil)

What are we doing? 

In 2021, the GTC has partnered with Eye on the Rainforest, a Puerto Rican NGO, with the aims of conserving tree species most at risk of extinction by increasing the technical capacity of project partners and improving the conservation status of these tree species. The major activities of the project include:

  • To determine the populations and understand the ecology of the target species by carrying out field surveys;
  • To collect seed and vegetative material for long term storage and propagation;
  • To develop propagation protocols;
  • To increase capacity of project partners in seed collection, set propagation trials and ex situ conservation collections management;
  • To build a hurricane-resistant shade-tree nursery.

Key achievements

A hurricane-resistant shade-tree nursery and a small soils shed have been built with funds provided by The Association of Zoological Horticulture. Our local partner has managed to convene a group of intrepid Puerto Rican plant experts to carry out field expeditions in search of the target species, to collate information on them and to collect material for propagation. So far two field trips have taken place, individuals for each of the species have been found and seeds and vegetative material have been collected. For the first time propagation protocols for these species are being established at the nursery site. The results will be recorded and shared to increase knowledge and secure the conservation of the species.

Wonderful botany team in Puerto Rico (Image: Thrity Vakil)

Contact details

For more information on this project, please contact globaltrees@bgci.org

Did you know?

Islands have the highest proportion of threatened trees.

For example, 59% of Madagascar’s trees are threatened with extinction.