Caribbean Island Land Cover

Land Cover and Forest Formations for:
Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Eustatius, Grenada, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago.

The International Institute of Tropical Forestry and partners have mapped forest types and land cover in the Caribbean since 2002 to support forest management. Raster data and maps from this work are are downloadable here and described in the studies listed. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization used these data in their global forestry assessments for 2005 and 2010, and the Puerto Rico data are the basis for recent National data (NLCD 2000).

We found that over much of the Caribbean forest cover is increasing, and we expect it will continue to rise. In the Lesser Antilles, where little was known about these trends, cultivated land areas declined 60 to 100 percent from 1945 to 2000, while forest cover increased by 50 to 950%. This trend will likely continue, because growing sugar cane for sugar is no longer profitable on Caribbean islands. Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Kitts and Nevis, for example, have both stopped subsidizing sugar production. Besides extensive abandoned cane fields in Trinidad and Tobago, we found extensive areas of abandoned woody agriculture that is now forest.

Caribbean Islands

For Trinidad and Tobago, we mapped tropical forests with more detail than for the other islands, mapping tree communities within more general forest types. For example, instead of only mapping seasonal evergreen forest as one class, we mapped several different tree communities that fall within the category of seasonal evergreen forest. We discovered that satellite imagery from severe drought was most useful for distinguishing among these communities.

Studies that describe the work and land-cover trends:

Helmer, Eileen H.; Ruzycki, Thomas S.; Benner, Jay; Voggesser,Shannon M.; Scobie, Barbara P.; Park, Courtenay; Fanning, David W.; Ramnarine, Seepersad 2012 Detailed maps of tropical forest types are within reach: forest tree communities for Trinidad and Tobago mapped with multiseason Landsat and multiseason fine-resolution imagery. Forest Ecology and Management 279:147-166.

Kennaway, Todd; Helmer, Eileen; Lefsky, Michael; Brandeis, Thomas; Sherrill, Kirk 2009 Mapping land cover and estimating forest structure using satellite imagery and coarse resolution lidar in the Virgin Islands. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing 2:023551, pp. 1-27.

Helmer, E.H.; Kennaway, T.A.; Pedreros, D.H.; Clark, M.L.; Marcano-Vega, H.; Tieszen, L.L.; Schill, S.R.; Carrington, C.M.S 2008 Land cover and forest formation distributions for St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Eustatius, Grenada and Barbados from decision tree classification of cloud-cleared satellite imagery. Caribbean Journal of Science. 44(2):175-198

Kennaway, Todd; Helmer, E. H 2007 The Forest Types and Ages Cleared for Land Development in Puerto Rico. GIScience & Remote Sensing 44(4):356-382.

Image Files

Image file downloads are zipped together with metadata. Metadata files can also be downloaded separately.




Puerto Rico

St. Kitts Nevis and St. Eustatius



Virgin Islands