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Welcome to the UPR-Mayagüez Departament of Biology Herbarium (MAPR)


The island of Puerto Rico is the smallest of the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico). Situated c.17 degrees North, Puerto Rico has a sub-tropical climate, frost free, annual temperature range of c.20 - 30 degrees. The natural vegetation is mesic sub-tropical forest with dry forests in the southern lowlands and rain forest in the higher mountainous areas. The Cordillera Central mountain chain of volcanic origin reaches 1338 m. Along the North edge is an extensive Karst formation. Serpentine outcrops occur to the West.

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 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 Greater Antilles. Species distribution within the island is poorly known and new taxa and records are common. 

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, Cuba and Hispaniola. It has specially rich collections from Western Puerto Rico and the islands of the Mona Straights (Desecheo, Mona and Monito). The bryophytes are also well represented including collections from most of Latin America. The MAPR herbarium is an institutional member of the Red de Herbarios de Mesoamérica y el Caribe. 

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 the Island were also fed into the database 

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.