Projects and Research
The Biology Program at the Vieques NWR has helped to demonstrate the importance of Vieques Island for its conservation and biological diversity, within the Archipelago of Puerto Rico. The program has forged partnerships with the community, universities, Municipal, Commonwealth and Federal agencies, non-government organizations and others to conserve and protect the natural resources of this beautiful island.
Sea Turtle Conservation
Vieques has a number of significant nesting beaches for three endangered sea turtle species: Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). In fact, Vieques is the number one nesting site for the green sea turtle and among the top five for the other two species in Puerto Rico. The VNWR, the DNER and TICATOVE are the primary partners working on this project, which lasts 10 months of the year.
Land Crab Studies
Land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi) populations have declined in Puerto Rico and are protected by the Commonwealth. Research at the VNWR focuses on the current status and health of land crab population and their habitat. This data is used to create a recreational land crab trapping season on the wildlife refuge. This a very popular activity for the community.
Protected forests, valleys, beaches and lagoons are important sites for migratory and resident birds. They feed, rest and some species reproduce here. Over the past fifteen years, surveys show that the 120 plus bird species originally reported for Vieques is more than 190 species. Monitoring in areas such as Playa Grande lagoon in the VNWR show that the individual numbers and populations of birds are also higher than previously recorded. The biology program also monitors nesting brown pelicans and birds across other areas. The delisted brown pelican, a former endangered species, nests twice a year in Vieques and is considered the largest in Puerto Rico.
Bats are the only native land mammals found in Puerto Rico. Bat research conducted in Vieques focuses on species diversity, populations and habitat use. Nine of the thirteen species of bats present in Puerto Rico have been reported in Vieques, including two new records. The VNWR has also conducted habitat improvements for a number of bat species.
The greenhouse is part of a number of habitat restoration projects; propagating endemic, native and endangered plant species such as Matabuey (Goetzea elegans) and Cobana Negra (Stahlia monosperma). The greenhouse is also used for a number of educational programs, as well as to create new interpretive trails to increase people’s conservation knowledge and restore habitats for birds, and amphibians, among others.
This endangered Caribbean plant is only found on the British Virgin Islands, the Guánica Forest of Puerto Rico and on the Vieques NWR. Research by our biology program along with other conservation partners indicate that the Vieques population may be different in many ways from the other populations. It has been listed by the USFWS as the number one plant species in need of restoration efforts in the US South-east and Caribbean region.
Several herpetofauna studies have been done in Vieques for species diversity, population and health status. Other aspects focus on endangered species surveys for the Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus), the Virgin Island boa (Epicrates monensis) and the Culebra's giant lizard (Anolis roosevelti).