The Center for Applied Tropical Ecology and Conservation (CATEC) of the University of Puerto Rico is a catalyst in the development of education and research in ecology. This cycle of CATEC research focuses on the impact of climate change and climate variability on fauna, flora, and ecosystem functioning in the Caribbean. We chose the research activities for their potential applications to the Caribbean Basin or the tropics in general. As a biodiversity hotspot, the Caribbean is home to about 12,000 plant species and 1,500 animal species, with nearly 50 percent endemic to the region. CATEC is studying how past and present climate change affects biodiversity and ecosystem function in the Caribbean and the threats to endangered and economically important native species. The Molecular Ecology, Evolution and Genetics (MEEG) area addresses conservation issues using molecular markers to understand phylogeny, spatial distribution of genetic diversity, and species interactions in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. The Species and Population Management (SPM) area focuses on interactions between exotic and native species; and patterns of regional diversification and distribution of endangered and economically important species. The Ecosystem Processes and Function (EPF) area addresses how terrestrial and marine species respond to climate variability by examining paleoclimatic changes and historical anthropogenic changes in land use and their effects on ecosystem structure; and links between the ecohydrology of the region and ecosystem function.
Our overarching goals include:
- Training of human resources at the graduate, undergraduate and post-doctoral levels,
- State-of-the-art research in conservation biology and environmental issues,
- Infrastructure improvement, and
- Production of relevant results for policy and conservation management.