Introduction: Puerto Rico is an island situated in the plate boundary zone between the Caribbean and the North American Plates. This is a geologically fascinating, tectonically active region, where the Caribbean Plate has over-ridden the North American Plate and is now sliding past it with strike-slip motion. The details of this tectonic interaction are poorly understood, largely because much of the region lies under water, making it difficult to study.
The geologic setting of Puerto Rico has created or contributed to several pressing societal issues, related to human safety, environmental health, and economic development. Because the island lies on an active plate boundary, earthquakes are a constant threat and the densely populated coastal areas are vulnerable to tsunamis. Coastal erosion is a concern in many coastal areas, but is particularly serious to an island economy which relies heavily on a thriving tourist industry. In Puerto Rico, illegal mining of beach sands for use as aggregate has exacerbated coastal erosion and left coastal communities more exposed to the ravages of storms and tsunamis. The serious need for an affordable local source of aggregate to use in the growing construction industry on the island has created a strong interest in locating and evaluating offshore sand and gravel deposits.
During the last 20 years the U.S. Geological Survey, often in cooperation with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources and/or the University of Puerto Rico, has conducted a variety of projects to address the geologic aspects of these pressing societal issues. The papers and data presented here are the results of these projects. Some have been previously published elsewhere; others, such as the database of surficial sediments of the Puerto Rico insular shelf, interpretation of side-looking airborne radar imagery of the island, and the GIS data, are presented here for the first time. The purpose of this CD is to make the results of these diverse studies available in a readily accessible digital form, so that managers, planners, and other researchers can utilize the results.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Puerto Rico: marine sediments, terrestrial and seafloor imagery, and tectonic interpretations
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,