Coral Reef Conservation in Puerto Rico - Extended Version


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​On an island like Puerto Rico, life is shaped by close connections. Culture and language, nature and people, land and sea – all are knitted tightly together into the fabric of the island life.

The same can be said about the health of the island’s coral reefs, which is closely connected to the health of habitats and quality of water throughout the island.

Over the past 10 years, NFWF has invested about $6 million in conservation projects that benefit Puerto Rico. Those investments have leveraged matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of about $11.5 million.

Almost half of the investments that NFWF has made in Puerto Rico have been in the area of coral reef conservation. Most of those projects unfold on land, often high in the mountains. There, at elevations of more than 2,000 feet, the conservation nonprofit Protectores de Cuencas works to address runoff and sedimentation that flows downstream and negatively affects marine resources, including coral reefs.

“It is extremely important to keep the water clean from where it all begins,” said Roberto Viqueira Ríos, executive director of Protectores de Cuencas. “It is also important for species such as the Puerto Rican parrot, for endemic bird species, and for migratory bird species.”

“The people of Puerto Rico have a deep connection with the Puerto Rican Parrot,” said Dr. Tom White, a parrot biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There were only 13 parrots left in the world in 1975. And that was when the intensive recovery program actually began in earnest to save this species.

“And now they see the Puerto Rican parrot coming back. So it represents hope and the recovery of Puerto Rico from all sorts of problems it’s had in the past, including Maria. This is their bird. And rightly so.” 

Traveling down the mountain, NFWF has worked in partnership with farmers and coffee growers to help improve soil conservation practices on their land and reduce erosion and sediment runoff.

Further down the slopes, NFWF has been working with coastal communities to reduce stormwater runoff and restore wetlands and mangroves that provide the filtration for water before it gets offshore.

Along Puerto Rico’s shores, NFWF also funds efforts to restore vital nesting beaches for loggerhead sea turtles and other species.

“Puerto Rico harbors one of the largest nesting rookeries of the northern Caribbean for leatherback turtles,” said Puerto Rico National Sea Turtle Coordinator Carlos Diez. “When we got impacted by Hurricane Maria, we definitely had a lot of erosion and a lot of debris. We were fortunate to receive funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and in a very fast way.

Offshore, NFWF has supported efforts to help repair coral reefs after storms such as Hurricane Maria and identify strongholds for endangered coral reef species. Other grants have supported programs that are propagating corals to help restore coral reefs directly.

Working with a coalition of funding partners from the public and private sectors, NFWF and its grantees are working across Puerto Rico, as well as in other parts of the United States, to combat the alarming decline in the quantity and productivity of coral reef ecosystems.




Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166


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