Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 627–640 | Cite as

Effect of harvesting, vegetation structure and composition on the abundance and demography of the land crab Cardisoma guanhumi in Puerto Rico

  • Concepción Rodríguez-Fourquet
  • Alberto M. Sabat
Original Paper


Cardisoma guanhumi is the focus of an important artisanal fishery in Puerto Rico. Data on land crab landings point towards a dramatic decline in their abundance. This is cause for concern given the intrinsic value of the fishery and the important role these crabs play in coastal ecosystems. In this paper we examine the effect of harvesting and habitat quality on the abundance, survival, and size structure of C. guanhumi. To accomplish this we conducted a capture-mark-recapture study for a period of 18 months at three localities with minimal or no harvesting, and three with intense harvesting. Habitat quality at the six study sites was assessed by measuring vegetation composition-structure and litter biomass. We also conducted a leaf consumption experiment to evaluate leaf litter selectivity and limitation. Mean crab abundance differed significantly among sites, and this variation was significantly explained by differences in crab survival among sites. Sites with less harvesting tended to have higher survivorship and more crabs than sites where harvesting took place. Crabs mean size differed among study sites and was inversely related to abundance. Vegetation composition and structure, leaf litter standing stock and leaf-litter consumption differed among study sites. However, only some of these habitat characteristics are directly related to crab abundance or demography. There is a tendency for sites with a high leaf litter standing stock and large basal area to have the largest crabs but in low abundance. This study shows that C. guanhumi populations are very sensitive to increases in mortality that result from harvesting, and that the historical decline in abundance of this crab in Puerto Rico can be explained, in part, by an increase in trapping effort. Our results also indicate that C. guanhumi is a very plastic species, capable of occupying diverse types of coastal forests and a leaf litter generalist.


Cardisoma guanhumi Land crabs Mark recapture Harvesting Population dynamics Mangrove forest Leaf litter 



The study was supported by Sea Grant Seed Money Program, PD-225-R/L.b.-31, by AGEP-NSF Fellowship, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, by the Department of Biology, and Biology Graduate Program University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. We thank the following agencies and personnel: Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads and Puerto Rico Conservation Trust. Special thanks to Miguel Figuerola (DNER), all undergraduate and graduate students, family, friends and colleagues that help me in the field and with the revision and discussion of the manuscript. An anonymous referee provided very valuable comments to this manuscript. Dr. Juan J. Rodríguez González, Department of English at the University of Puerto Rico Bayamon, edited the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Concepción Rodríguez-Fourquet
    • 1
  • Alberto M. Sabat
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Puerto Rico at BayamónBayamonUSA
  2. 2.University of Puerto Rico Río PiedrasSan JuanUSA

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