Around 3000 species of vascular plants have been reported, of these, some 7% are endemic. Much of the natural vegetation was cleared by the turn of the century. While extensive re-forestation has been on-going, intense population pressure (c.3.5 million people in an area of less than 8500 sq.km) has resulted in major loss of critical habitats. There are a number of federal, commonwealth and private reserves on the island but in all, less than 5% of the natural vegetation is protected in any way. One area, Guánica Reserve, has been designated as a dry sub-tropical forest Biosphere Reserve.
While the flora has been studied since
the early 1800's, it remains poorly documented relative the other islands of
The MAPR herbarium is situated on the
west coast of the island in Mayagüez. The herbarium, founded in 1958 has
collections mostly from throughout the main island,
A project is now underway at the MAPR herbarium to assemble the existing collections ( c.25,000) into a BRAHMS Database. To assist, funds have been raised from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The University of Puerto Rico.
Prior to collection entry, the database
was primed with some 4000 gazetteer entries from the US Geological Service
data set. Draft lists of vascular plant, moss and hepatic species names for
As well as providing an efficient curatorial infrastructure, the database project is being undertaken to help identify critical habitat areas and individual species in need of protection. Distribution maps generated by the project will be used to determine the species' distribution through time, helping to identify taxa that have suffered a significant loss of range as well as to identify areas that are undersampled and areas that are rich in species, especially rare and endangered species, that should be protected.