The 745-ha Baño de Oro Natural Area was established by the USDA Forest Service in 1949, and makes up a portion of El Yunque National Forest. The Forest Service Research Natural Areas (RNAs) network protects some of the finest examples of natural ecosystems for the purposes of scientific study and education and for maintenance of biological diversity. Baño de Oro is administered jointly by USDA Forest Service Southern Region (Region 8) and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF).
It is situated at elevations between 245 and 1,025 meters in the wettest part of Puerto Rico and encompasses four major forest types that are free of human disturbance. Soils range from deep alluviums in the narrow valleys to shallow, rocky ridges. Two life zones, four major forest types, and the rare Pterocarpus swamp are found within the area or bordering it. Numerous tree species, epiphytes, ferns, liverworts, and mosses characterize the vegetation. The four forest types are lower montane rain forest, montane rain forest, palm brake, and dwarf forest.
These areas are permanently protected and maintained in natural conditions for the purposes of conserving biological diversity, conducting non-manipulative research and monitoring, and fostering education. RNAs represent a valuable ecological resource for scientists, managers and educators. Included in this network are:
These RNAs help protect biological diversity at the genetic, species, ecosystem and landscape scales.
RNAs that are representative of common ecosystems in natural condition serve as baseline or reference areas. To help answer resource management questions, the baseline areas of RNAs can be compared with similar ecosystems undergoing silvicultural or other land management prescriptions. In this way, RNAs make an important contribution to ecosystem management.
RNAs are managed to maintain the natural features for which they were established, and to maintain natural processes. Because of the emphasis on natural conditions, they are excellent areas for studying ecosystems or their component parts and for monitoring succession and other long-term ecological change. Non-manipulative research and monitoring activities are encouraged in RNAs and can be compared with manipulative studies conducted in other areas.
RNAs serve as sites for low-impact educational activities. These areas are available for educational use by university and school groups, native plant societies, and other organizations interested in pursuing natural history and educational field trips.
To learn more about Baño De Oro, go here: https://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/gtr/gtr_so111.pdf
To learn more about Research Natural Areas (RNA), go here: https://www.srs.fs.fed.us/rna/