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Toro Negro Forest Reserve

DNRE, Oct. 1976

The Toro Negro Forest (6945 cuerdas in 7 separate tracts) is located between Jayuya and Villalba on the island divide in the Central Cordillera in the municipalities of Jayuya, Ponce, Juana Diaz, and Orocovis. In 1935, private lands were purchased by the Reconstruction Administration and the forest was administered by the U.S. Forest Service as the Toro Negro Division of the Caribbean National Forest. In April 1970, a land exchange which included the Puerto Rican Department of Agriculture purchase and transfer of 1677 acres forest lands adjacent to Luquillo Experimental Forest in exchange for the complete transfer of Toro Negro forest lands to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The lower elevations of Toro Negro used to be important coffee-producing plantations, however, the entire forest is especially critical for water and soil conservation. Cerro La Punta (1338 m), the highest peak in Puerto Rico, is located in the western section of the forest and the lowest elevation is found at the south edge of the forest near spectacular Inabón Falls (approx. 440 m).

The Toro Negro Forest is located in the cool, moist mountains of the Central Cordillera. Average annual precipitation of five weather stations in and surrounding the forest ranges from 2031 to 2919 mm and mean annual temperature from 19.4 to 25 degrees C. Temperatures are undoubtedly cooler at higher elevations.

Four vegetation associations have been delineated in two bioclimatic life zones. The Sierra Palm (Prestoea montana) covers the largest area of all forest types in Toro Negro. The palm forest is distinguishable at a great distance by the form and size of leaves and by the general pale green color of the foliage. Below 650 m elevation the palms appear as scattered elements; however at higher elevations the sierra palm becomes a dominant species over a large area.

The trunk of the sierra palm is straight, erect, cylindrical and attains heights of 10-15 m. The pinnate leaves are mostly 2.0-2.5 meters long and cast a dense shade on the ground. The palm forest, nearly always a single species dominant is normally open and free from undergrowth of any kind. The globose fruits are somewhat more than one cm. in diameter and produced in great abundance.

The dwarf or cloud forest developed in the higher peaks of the Central Cordillera are quite different in general appearance from the cloud forest of Luquillo Mts. due to the less rigorous environment in Toro Negro. The physical effect of the wind is much reduced; the shrubs are neither bent nor shorn to an even surface, but are essentially erect and their crowns are rounded and uneven in outline. The mosses are reduced to a thin mantle on the more sheltered trunks and are absent in many places, while the great mats of Selaginella are completely lacking.

Buchenavia(caimitillo) and Micropholis are dominant species in the lower montane zonal vegetation association. At lower elevations, the tabonuco type (Dacroydes excelsa) is the dominant species in the subtropical wet life zone.

In Toro Negro only the most inaccessible mountain tops have never been cleared. Most of the lower areas are subject to the familiar routine of logging, clearing, burning, and grazing or semi-permanent cultivation, Most of the forest lands in Toro Negro rise above the upper limit of successful coffee cultivation.

Between 1934 and 1945 over 3 million seedlings and approximately 19,000 lbs of seeds were sown on 1856 acres in Toro Negro. 28 species were planted in 29 different plantations. Since 1962, approximately 120 cuerdas have been planted to eucalyptus, mahoe, kadam and Honduran pine.

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