Four watersheds with differing geology and land cover in eastern Puerto Rico have been studied on a long-term basis by the U.S. Geological Survey to evaluate water, energy, and biogeochemical budgets. These watersheds are typical of tropical, island-arc settings found in many parts of the world. Two watersheds are located on coarse-grained granitic rocks that weather to quartz- and clay-rich, sandy soils, and two are located on fine-grained volcanic rocks and volcaniclastic sedimentary rocks that weather to quartz-poor, fine-grained soils. For each bedrock type, one watershed is covered with mature forest, and the other watershed, like most of Puerto Rico, has transformed from relatively undisturbed pre-European forest to intensive agriculture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and further to ongoing reforestation that began in the middle of the 20th century. The comparison of water chemistry and hydrology in these watersheds allows an evaluation of the effects of land-use history and geology on hydrologic regimes and erosion rates. This chapter describes the physiography, geology, and land cover of the four watersheds and provides background information for the remaining chapters in this volume.
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Physiography, geology, and land cover of four watersheds in eastern Puerto Rico: Chapter A in Water quality and landscape processes of four watersheds in eastern Puerto Rico