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Cuba - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Cuba has a large variety of ecosystems (42 types) and landscapes (23 types), ranging from arid and semi-arid land to humid tropical forests and mountains. It is composed of a main island and several archipelagos. Plains cover 75% of the territory, while mountains cover 18% and humid coastal lands cover the remaining 4%. Mangroves represent 26% of the country’s forested surface and 70% of its coasts. Although natural and anthropogenic stressors have affected more than 30% of existing mangroves, this ecosystem is ranked first amongst the Caribbean island countries and ninth worldwide. Cuba is the principal center of evolution and speciation in the Antilles, as well as one of the most important islands worldwide for biodiversity. The high level of endemism is caused by extreme climate conditions, diversity of habitat, geologic evolution (soil mosaic) and geographic isolation. As a result, approximately 50% of plant species and 42% of animal species can be found in Cuba only. Of the 612 vertebrate species, endemics include 15 mammals, 91 reptiles, 43 amphibians, 23 fish and 22 birds.

Approximately 10% of the country’s fauna and 2% of its vascular plants are considered at risk or endangered. As has been happening in other developing countries, Cuba’s biodiversity has been declining due to the modification of natural habitats. It is estimated that the number of marine species is 10,500 and that 30% of the total number of marine species is yet to be discovered. The country counts 6,519 species of vascular plants and an estimated 26,953 animal species, mainly invertebrate, of which 16,516 are known.

Cuban forests constitute an important source of non-timber yielding products, such as pine resin, guano fertilizer, yuraguano stalks, palmiche, wild fruits, honey, mangrove bark, guaniquiqui and bamboo fiber, seeds, coffee, cacao, wax, wild orchids, essential oils, cacao butter and medicinal plants. Fishing is also an important economic activity for the country.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Cuban biodiversity is significantly threatened by anthropogenic and natural stressors. Anthropogenic stressors are mostly defined by a high level of tourism-related activities, mining, overfishing, deforestation, poaching, introduction of invasive alien species and pollution (sedimentation from deforestation and waste and chemicals from agriculture). Important natural threats facing Cuban biodiversity are increased temperatures, more frequent droughts and torrential rains, fires and hurricanes, resulting from the impacts of climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Since 2005, inventorying of the country’s biological diversity has been carried out and information gathered for developing management plans, monitoring their effectiveness and assessing damages caused by hurricanes. Implementation of the Action Plan on Protected Areas was concluded in 2008, with the second plan for 2009-2013 currently in implementation. Cuba has a total of 253 protected areas (including 10 new protected areas), of which 105 have management plans covering a five-year period and annual operational plans. Of these, 45 have been approved by the Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers. The total proposed and approved areas represent 19.95% of the country, comprised of about 25% of the marine ecosystem, 57% of coral reefs, 89% of native species of flora, 85.3% of endemic species, 77% of threatened species. In terms of fauna, approved areas cover 75.1 % of the vertebrate groups analyzed, 78.4% of endemic species and 82.3% of threatened species.

Implementation of the Cuban Biodiversity Action Plan (2006-2010) is contributing to achieving the goals and objectives drawn up by the country, especially in regard to the national protected areas system. However, actions related to the management and control of invasive alien species, climate change considerations in relation to biodiversity, access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from their use, which were identified as national work priorities, have only been partially fulfilled.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The theme of biological diversity has been gradually integrated through national programmes and public awareness-raising activities (e.g. Forestry National Program (2000-2015), Turquino Plan (integrated mountain development), National Program for the Conservation and Improvement of Soils, National Action Plans for Phytogenetic Resources, National Biosafety Framework, National Action Plan to Combat Desertification).

By 2007, forest cover had increased to 25.3%, from 22.2% in 2000, due to implementation of reforestation policy. Further, urban agricultural production is now 80% sustainable. Cuba also emphasizes the preservation of traditional knowledge in rural communities and is carrying out activities related to the use of wild plants for medicinal, non-conventional foods and other functions.

Progress has been made in regard to integrated coastal management, through the elaboration and implementation of a legislative and institutional framework, and formulation of parameters for evaluating and declaring a coastal zone under an integrated coastal management regime.

Additionally, projects (e.g PNUD/GEF project on the Sabana-Camaguey ecosystem, ecosystem services and economic valuation) have been completed and are now used as a complement to analyses developed in regard to payments for ecosystem services.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

National environmental policy, centralization of the main means of production and development as well as the political climate have restricted foreign investment/intervention. Further, legal instruments establishing regulative measures for the sustainable management and exploitation of resources, such as the ban to protect lobster, shrimp, sea snail, fish and marine turtles, have been issued. Consequently, the impact on marine ecosystems appears to be minor compared to other countries in the region. However, a legal instrument does not yet exist to regulate access to genetic resources and the sharing of benefits arising from the use of these resources. Biodiversity legislation remains insufficient; progress in this area is impeded by the delay in attaining approval on legal instruments.

Cuba has limited availability of financial resources to increase and strengthen the infrastructure of germplasm banks which is the biggest threat to the genetic integrity of the collections. Financial resources are insufficient overall to ensure biodiversity conservation (sources such as the Environmental National Fund (FNMA) does not constitute a stable source of financing).

The establishment of the Cuban Clearing-house Mechanism (CHM) in 2004, together with the National Biodiversity Information Network (RINBIO), and other related national initiatives, constitutes a very important development for facilitating the exchange of information and experiences.

Actions regarding the Protected Areas National System (SNAP) are being carried out with national and provincial institutions (e.g. research institutes, natural history museums, botanical gardens, biology and geography faculties, control and planning centers). Cooperation among sectors (including ministries, management agencies, etc.) is also promoted by means of inter-ministerial departments and networks created to share information and experiences.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Identification, monitoring and indicators are highly developed in relation to flora and fauna in the terrestrial environment, but are lacking in the marine environment and constitute a priority for the future. A set of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management has been developed for a program aimed at achieving sustainable forest resources which is being monitored at all levels.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme