Theme Week Puerto Rico – Desecheo Island

Friday, 27 October 2023 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Environment
Reading Time:  6 minutes

© US Fish & Wildlife Service

© US Fish & Wildlife Service

Desecheo (Spanish: Isla Desecheo) is a small uninhabited island of the archipelago of Puerto Rico located in the northeast of the Mona Passage; 13 mi (21 km) from Rincón on the west coast (Punta Higüero) of the main island of Puerto Rico and 31 mi (50 km) northeast of Mona Island. It has a land area of 0.589 sq mi (377 acres; 153 ha; 1.53 km²). Politically, the island is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge, but part of Barrio Sabanetas of Mayaguez.

Desecheo, which has no known bodies of surface water, reaches a maximum elevation of 715 ft (218 m) and has an annual precipitation, on average, of 40.15 in (1020 mm). The lack of surface water limits its flora to thorny shrubs, small trees, weeds and various cacti, including the endangered higo chumbo (Harrisia portoricensis). Fauna includes various species of seabirds, three endemic species of lizard (Pholidoscelis desechensis, Anolis desechensis and Sphaerodactylus levinsi), introduced goats and rats, and a population of rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) introduced from Cayo Santiago in 1967 as part of a study on adaptation. Before the introduction of rhesus monkeys the island was the largest nesting colony of the brown booby, however, no species presently nests on the island.

Although politically part of Puerto Rico, along with the islands of Mona and Monito, Desecheo is not geologically related to the main island. It is believed that the island has been isolated, at least, since the Pliocene. However, the island is part of the Rio Culebrinas formation which suggests that it was once connected to Puerto Rico.

Desecheo Island as seen from Rincón © flickr.com - Oquendo/cc-by-2.0 © US Fish & Wildlife Service Desecheo Island as seen from Aguadilla © Tom Vazquez
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Desecheo Island as seen from Rincón © flickr.com - Oquendo/cc-by-2.0
No evidence of Pre-Columbian human settlement of the island has been uncovered. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit the island during his second voyage to the New World; however, it was not named until 1517 by Spanish explorer Nuñez Alvarez de Aragón. During the 18th century the island was used by smugglers, pirates and bandits to hunt imported feral goats. During World War II, and until 1952, the island was used as a bombing range by the United States Armed Forces. From 1952 to 1964 the United States Air Force used Desecheo for survival training. In 1976 administration of the island was given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in 1983 it was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge. In 2000 it received a Marine reserve designation and fishing is allowed within 1/2 mile around the island.

In the early 1900s, Desecheo NWR was still a major nesting ground for thousands of seabirds. Approximately 15,000 brown boobies, 2,000 red-footed boobies (Sula sula), 2,000 brown noddies (Anous stolidus), 1,500 bridled terns (Onychoprion anaethetus), and hundreds of magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), laughing gulls (Larus atricilla), and sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) nested here. Invasive mammals, including goats and rats, began to impact Desecheo NWR early in the 20th century. Around and during the time of World War II, the island was used as an artillery range by the US Air Force. That and the invasive species’ damage to Desecheo’s ecosystem have been severe, and by the turn of the millennium, virtually no seabirds were using the refuge. In response, in 2016 the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Island Conservation, and other key partners, including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Bell Laboratories and Tomcat, worked together to remove invasive black rats and Rhesus macaques from the island. One year later, Desecheo Island was declared free of invasive species, and signs of recovery were observed, including Audubon’s shearwaters sighted on the island for the first time and new bridled tern nests discovered. In addition, 72 Federally protected Higo Chumbo cactus, (Harrisia portoricensis), were found and measured pre (2003-2010) and post eradication (2017). In 2017, individuals with flowers and huge yellow fruits were observed which is a good sign for the overall reproductive status of the population. Since 2018, social attraction equipment has been installed to augment bridled tern and brown noddy colonies and establish a species of conservation concern, the Audubon’s shearwater.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge and Wikipedia Desecheo Island. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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