In 1990, the University of Puerto Rico established the 16-ha Hurricane Recovery Plot in the lowland moist forest of the Luquillo Experimental Forest, a long-term research site of the U.S. Forest Service and one of the largest protected forest areas remaining in Puerto Rico. The relatively low tree diversity of this insular forest makes a 16-ha plot adequate at this site. Hurricane Hugo struck the plot in 1989, providing an opportunity to study the impact of a major hurricane on a tropical forest. Preliminary analysis of the second census (all stems >= 1 cm) shows that mortality rates since 1991 have been low. The total number of stems for most species >= 10 cm dbh is back to pre-hurricane levels, as mortality was equal to the recruitment of stems from smaller size classes.
Destruction from Hurricane Hugo provided an important opportunity for establishment and growth of pioneer trees; however, overall, it appears to have had relatively little net impact on the remainder of the tree community. Researchers are currently analyzing the effects of Hurricane George, which hit the site in 1998. Hurricane George is providing an unparalleled opportunity to reanalyze storms' impacts on the forest.
Luquillo is one of 30 NSF Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) field sites. LTER’s mission is to provide the scientific community, policy makers, and society with the knowledge and predictive understanding necessary to conserve, protect, and manage the nation’s ecosystems, their biodiversity, and the services they provide. The LTER Network was founded in 1980 by the National Science Foundation with the recognition that long-term research could help unravel the principles and processes of ecological science, which frequently involves long-lived species, legacy influences, and rare events. As policymakers and resource managers strive to incorporate reliable science in their decision making, the LTER Network works to generate and share useful and usable information.