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GIS Proves to be a Valuable Tool in Developing
Maps for Outreach Initiatives

maps and text by William Hernandez, Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of 9 refuges located in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Jamaica Passage. These refuges are Cabo Rojo, Culebra, Desecheo, Buck Island, Green Cay, Sandy Point, Laguna Cartagena, Navassa and Vieques and are managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

The purpose of this project was to establish a new map of the refuges in the Caribbean, their location, extension and established dates using GIS. It was also used to evaluate their geographic location in the different islands of the Caribbean. Previous maps were only used cartographic products, but this product provides a dynamic base map that could be coupled with most of the layers available for the refuges.

The main poster frame provides the center point location of the refuges and it also gives information about their established dates. The other frames provide an enhanced view of the refuges as well as the polygon feature dataset of each refuge. A DEM was used as the background for Puerto Rico to provide topographic information of the island and the bathymetric contour lines were used as the main oceanic background. A graduated symbology was used to remark the changes in elevation and depth. All map frames have a grid in latitude and longitude coordinates selection was used to provide geographic reference information of the location of the refuges. To complete the poster, pictures of different habitats and species were collaged to provide and insight of the uniqueness of our refuges in the Caribbean. The poster is arranged so it can provide information in both English and Spanish.

The National Wildlife Refuges of the Southwest Puerto Rico is a mapping project that includes the Cabo Rojo and Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuges and Boquerón State Forest and Wildlife Refuge and the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust Reserve Punta Guaniquilla. These refuges are located in the southwest of Puerto Rico an area that has a unique and rich ecological value. The area is covered by dry tropical and sub-tropical forest, coastal mangrove forest and wetlands, salt flats and dry shrubs and grassy uplands. It s also one of the major stops for the birds winter migrations.

            The purpose of this project was to provide the public with a complete map of the southwest of Puerto Rico that included all the natural reserves, their locations, main access roads, recreational activities of the area, refuge trails available and historic and local landmarks. This project was done in ArcGIS 9.0 and the layers were obtained from different sources including: R4 Realty Office, Puerto Rico Planning Board and the US Corps of Engineers. However, most of the information was collected using GPS, including roads, trails, and landmark points. Some information of the recreational activities was digitized in ArcEditor. The 2004 imagery was selected as a background, because of the color balance and the lack of cloud cover. The poster is arranged so it can provide information in both English and Spanish.

            This cartographic product has been very important as an outreach tool for the refuge, but has also been adapted and used for different purposes including: Fire Management Maps and Individual Refuge Maps. Once again, the use of GIS, coupled with a solid informational layer background, can make any map, a multipurpose product.


click on the map for a larger version

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