Cuba´s Value of Protected Areas
By: Ledys Camacho Casado Photos by Amauris Betancourt and Eduardo Cabrera
Stopping the effects of climate change is the best inspiration for the promotion of a culture of participation, knowledge, and commitment by all to caring for the environment. A culture that would also allow meeting the needs of modern society without jeopardizing the future of coming generations and without extinguishing or overloading the main natural resources on which the very existence of human kind depend.
With its increasingly progressive trend, this is the guide followed by the thousands of workers and dozens of executives integrated into Cuba’s National System of Protected Areas, a mechanism that articulates the UN Environment Program: sustainable development is one that improves the quality of human life without overcharging the capacity of the ecosystems it is based upon.
Acting locally, the main laboratory for transformations, is the most expeditious stage for better social management, and can also be polemic and controversial, reflecting as it does on the balance between man and nature.
Cuban communities are actively participating in the hands-on management plans for different ecosystems; preserving and improving the habitat of species important for biodiversity; adopting new sources of renewable energies for domestic use or the promotion of productive processes, as ways to reduce global warming emissions.
All of this and more is included in the working philosophy of the National System of Protected Areas, characterized as a representative, functional and sustainable network of a well-managed natural reservoir, in a determined time space.
In April 2010, Cuban environmentalists celebrated the 90t h anniversary of the Sierra de Cristal National Park in Holguín Province; the first territory established as a protected area in the country.
The celebration included an exchange between specialists and neighbours of the community in La Zoilita Biological Station, on the Pinares de Mayarí plateau; the latter is part of the Sierra de Nipe geographical complex, located 700m above sea level.
This is one of the most important botanical regions of the Cuban archipelago, containing a wealth of endemic species - a bit more than 445 varieties - in surroundings made up of pine and oak forests. There, representatives of mountain bodies talked about their results in the entire country, where, as of 2009, there were 253 proposed and approved protected natural marine and terrestrial areas, covering nearly 20 per cent of the national area.
For eight decades Cuba's National System of Protected Areas has been preserving the most valuable natural heritage of the Caribbean island. Among its many functions is the vital integral development of a sustainable local economy, in which agriculture is ke, to achieve more efficient ways of production that would increase food sources and prevent dependency on imports.
Apart from providing assistance in energy matters and implementing adaptation and mitigation measures in the face of extreme natural phenomena, it also serves in the sustainable management of lands, many resources, goods and services.
Its regulatory functions include the preservation of biodiversity, climate regulation, protection of basins and coasts, and the collection of water and carbon to control sedimentation.
There is also the use of solar energy in biomass production, biological control and building habitats for breeding and sheltering different species.