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Calculating Puerto Rico’s Ecological Footprint (1970–2010) Using Freely Available Data

National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 26 W. Martin Luther King Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45268, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2015, 7(7), 9326-9343;
Received: 28 March 2015 / Revised: 8 July 2015 / Accepted: 10 July 2015 / Published: 16 July 2015
(This article belongs to the Section Social Ecology and Sustainability)
PDF [970 KB, uploaded 16 July 2015]


Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) is appealing as a metric of sustainability because it is straightforward in theory and easy to conceptualize. However, EFA is difficult to implement because it requires extensive data. A simplified approach to EFA that requires fewer data can serve as a perfunctory analysis allowing researchers to examine a system with relatively little cost and effort. We examined whether a simplified approach using freely available data could be applied to Puerto Rico, a densely populated island with limited land resources. Forty-one years of data were assembled to compute the ecological footprint from 1970 to 2010. According to EFA, individuals in Puerto Rico were moving toward sustainability over time, as the per capita ecological footprint decreased from 3.69 ha per capita (ha/ca) in 1970 to 3.05 ha/ca in 2010. However, due to population growth, the population’s footprint rose from 1.00 × 107 ha in 1970 to 1.14 × 107 ha in 2010, indicating Puerto Rico as a whole was moving away from sustainability. Our findings demonstrate the promise for conducting EFA using a simplified approach with freely available data, and we discuss potential limitations on data quality and availability that should be addressed to further improve the science. View Full-Text
Keywords: ecological footprint; biocapacity; sustainability; regional assessment; Puerto Rico ecological footprint; biocapacity; sustainability; regional assessment; Puerto Rico

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Hopton, M.E.; Berland, A. Calculating Puerto Rico’s Ecological Footprint (1970–2010) Using Freely Available Data. Sustainability 2015, 7, 9326-9343.

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