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Cambalache Forest Reserve

DNRE, Oct. 1976

The Cambalache Forest occurs on the mogotes in the north coastal limestone formations of Puerto Rico. The terrain appears as clusters of haystack hills separated from one another by rounded depressions. The area of the forest is 950 cuerdas with an elevation ranging from 5 to 50 meters above sea level. The forest lies in the municipalities of Barceloneta and Arecibo.

Mean monthly rainfall ranges from approximately 87 mm during February to 136.4 mm in December with a mean annual rainfall of 1479.8 mm. February, March and April are distinctively drier than the remaining months.

Mean monthly temperature varies from 23.3 degrees C during January and February to 27.0 degrees C during August with a mean annual temperature of 25.3 degrees C.

The forest lies in Holridge's Subtropical Moist Forest Life zone, two of which are derived from the limestone soils and the other derived from an alluvial red-clay loam. The limestone or haystack oriented northeast to southwest are quite moist on the gentle northern slopes, are even more humid on the extremely steep southwest slopes and quite xeric on top. The largest percentage of the forest is classified in the two vegetation associations characteristic of the hillsides and the tops with a smaller percentage of the area classified as valleys and narrow bottomlands.

In addition to the common trees (Cecropia, Didymopanax, and Tabebuia heterophylla) two endemic palms are common in this forest. The royal palm (Roystonea borinqueña) can be identified by its smooth gray trunk which is usually slightly swollen at the base. Gaussia attenuata with a slender trunk often grows near the summits of the hills and because it is usually taller than the surrounding trees, is readily identified at a distance. Zanthoxylum martinicense is a very conspicuous xeric species because of the stout conical thorn on its trunk.

Little of the natural vegetation remains in the narrow bottomlands between the limestone hills. Presently, this vegetation association is planted in teak or remains as scrubby second growth.