Puerto Rico is Home to NOAA’s Caribbean Habitat Blueprint Focus Area

Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves Marine Ecological Corridor and the Island of Culebra were recently named a NOAA Habitat Blueprint Focus Area. Habitat Focus Areas are places where NOAA, together with strong local partnerships, can increase the effectiveness of habitat conservation science and management efforts.

An Area Recognized for its Unique Resources

Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves encompass close to 70,000 acres stretching ridge to reef from areas just west of Fajardo to the small island of Culebra off the island’s northeast coast. A diversity of coral reef species—including some protected under the Endangered Species Act—occupy the coastal waters and draw a wide range of marine life, including manatees, turtles, whales, and birds.

The value of the Northeast Reserves and Culebra habitats was recognized earlier when the region was designated as a coral reef conservation priority by Puerto Rico’s marine resource management community, including NOAA. The reserves also protect coastal forests, wetlands, mangroves, a bioluminescent lagoon, and seagrass beds.

Scientists, Managers, and the Community Collaborate to Conserve

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program has long-standing relationships with local management agencies, academic, and community organizations to help protect and enhance the reserves’ coral reef ecosystems. NOAA scientists are actively working with managers and the local government to understand and address land-based issues that impact coral reef resources, as well as the coral reefs themselves and the marine life they support.

NOAA Coral Program scientists are leading projects to:

  • Map sea floor habitats, including coral reefs and seagrass beds
  • Identify biological hotspots and areas that are home to species that may be critical in status
  • Analyze the hydrodynamics of the region to better understand the flow of sediment loads and which areas with corals and other sensitive habitats are impacted most
  • Increase what we known about how the people living in the region use the marine resources
  • Monitor the condition of corals and reef fish
  • Carry out watershed assessments and plans to continue with NOAA’s ridge-to-ridge approach in coral reef conservation and management
  • Support community efforts to manage and conserve their resources for future generations
  • The recognition of Puerto Rico’s Northeast Reserves and Culebra Island as a Habitat Blueprint Focus Area means NOAA can maximize its habitat conservation efforts in the area to benefit the marine resources and the coastal communities connected to them.

    For more information about the NOAA Habitat Blue Print framework, visit:
    www.habitat.noaa.gov/habitatblueprint/southeast_caribbean.html.

    coral reef picture