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Some Things Will Always Change: Land Use in a Dry Tropical Forest

This article is from Issue Tropical - Vol. 3 No. 1.

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Guanica Forest is a tropical dry forest in the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. In 1981, the United Nations recognized it for being one of the best examples of a dry tropical forest. The scientists in this study wanted to know how Guanica Forest and the land around it has changed over the years. 


Welcome to the Tropical edition

Note to Educators

Education Standards Correlations

Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Forest and Grassland Use (Educators)
  • Growing and Using Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Using Forests (Students)
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Southern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists observe natural areas using many different techniques. One way to observe natural areas is through photographs. In this article, the scientists wanted to learn about changes in an area of land over a long period of time. They wanted to know if trees were growing or had been cut down, or if roads or buildings had been built over the years. To do this, they used photographs of an area taken between 1936 and 1989. The photographs were taken from an airplane. Photographs taken from an airplane are called aerial (air e ul) photographs. The aerial photographs were compared with each other to show changes in how the land was being used. By comparing these photographs, the scientists were able to see the changes that had occurred on the land over a long period of time.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists
  • Scientific Topics

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Tropical forests are very diverse. Although most people know about tropical rain forests, they may not know about tropical dry forests. Can you guess what makes dry forests different than rain forests? A rain forest receives more rain than a dry forest (Figure 1). A rain forest can get up to 400 inches or 1,000 centimeters of rain each year (What is the average number of inches or centimeters possible every week? What is the average number possible every day?). A dry forest receives about 20 inches or 50 centimeters of rain each year (What is the average number of inches or centimeters possible every week?). For this reason, the types of plants and animals living in dry forests are different from those living in rain forests. Trees and animals that are adapted to drier conditions live in tropical dry forests. In this article, you will learn about a dry forest in Puerto Rico. (Just for fun '" What is the average amount of rainfall your town or area receives each year?)
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Adaptation

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Structure and function in living systems (C)
  • Structure of the earth system (D)
  • Understandings about science and technology (E)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Human Society: Social Trade-Offs
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Physical Setting: Processes that Shape the Earth
  • The Physical Setting: The Earth