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People, Habitats, Species, and Governance: An Assessment of the Social-Ecological System of La Parguera, Puerto Rico

Author(s): Valdés-Pizzini, Manuel; Michele Schärer-Umpierre


Name of Publisher: Interdisciplinary Center for Coastal Studies, University of Puerto Rico

Place of Publication: Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

Publication Type: Book

Date of Publication: 2014

Reference Information:

Extent of Work: 110 pp.

Keywords: La Parguera; integrated ecosystem assessment; Puerto Rico; coral reefs; mangroves; seagrasses; bioluminescent bays; social-ecological system

Abstract: Management of complex marine ecosystems and their human component require an ecosystem approach to management that is based on integrating the best sciences available. A key science-based mechanism supporting an ecosystem approach to management strategy is an understanding of the social-ecological system, which incorporates information of the processes that shape the environment. This report presents the results of an exercise design to describe the social-ecological system of La Parguera in southwestern Puerto Rico while recommending the use and application of critical concepts such as resilience and ecosystem services to better understand the social-ecological system.The report documents –through a variety of sources— the main characteristics of the ecosystem at La Parguera, defined as a complex mosaic of habitat types extending from the hilltops in the watershed to the abyssal depths beyond the insular platform and all the species that inhabit these. This geographical area includes habitats of great value and unique ecological features, such as: dry forests, salt marshes, mudflats,mangroves, bioluminescent bays, seagrass beds, macroalgal beds, pelagic waters, and well developed, extensive coral reefs and emergent keys.The report describes in detail the different habitats, and identifies the array of drivers, pressures (human activities) that impact the habitats and the species, thus conditioning their current state that, in turn, stimulates responses from the stakeholders (most prominently, the government agencies in charge of conservation) for their conservation, or for the allocation of resources. The DPSIR (drivers-pressures-state-impacts-responses) model was used throughout the text to describe the ecosystem and to identify the human factors shaping ecological processes. The report contains maps representing, among others, the spatial distribution of habitats, the geographical dimensions of governance, and the human footprint in the region (roads, settlements and urban development). A full-fledge integrated ecosystem analysis is a lengthy process that requires a vast amount of time, effort and funding. A complex ecosystem such as La Parguera, with a lengthy, uneven and contentious history in governance requires a well planned process with the concourse of all the stakeholders for its success. This report, and effort, provides a head start in that direction, as well as baseline information and a framework for action.

Availability: Available from the Puerto Rico Sea Grant Program at and from the NCCOS Publications Explorer at

Related Attachment: Download file (.pdf)

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