By Sergio Torres Zamora
The Cuban archipelago constitutes a world-significant space due to its species richness and its high endemism; the largest in the insular Caribbean and one of the most representative on the planet, especially in higher plants, (which exceeds 50% of the vascular flora).
Floristic resources of the Desembarco del Granma National Park. Cuba
The Cuban archipelago constitutes a world-significant space due to its species richness and its high endemism; the largest in the insular Caribbean and one of the most representative of the planet, especially in higher plants, (which exceeds 50% of the vascular flora) as well as by a diversity of ecosystems that range from those that host xerophytic vegetation such as maniguas coastal and dry mountains to the rain forests, cloudy and cool mountains that are located in the Pico Real del Turquino, the highest elevation in the country (1972 mts, asl), located in the eastern portion.
Most of this botanical and zoological wealth is protected in the different Protected Areas that the country has distributed in all the provinces and with different management categories that are classified as: Natural Reserve (RN), National Park (PN), Natural Park (PNat.), Ecological Reserve (RE), Fauna Refuge (RF), Managed Floristic Reserve (RFM), Outstanding Natural Element (END), Protected Areas of Managed Resources (APRM), Multiple Use Protected Area (APUM) and Natural Tourist Area (ANT).
This article refers to the floristic resources present in one of the National Parks of Cuba: the Desembarco del Granma National Park, located in the southern part of Cuba, west of the eastern region and one of the most remarkable places in the Cuban archipelago. Thus, throughout its 27,547 hectares, there are valuable natural values, among which we can mention the system of marine terraces of Cabo Cruz, with significant characteristics, among which its stepped relief stands out; It is also one of the best preserved in the country and one of the most representative on an international scale. The park shows a diversity of coastal ecosystems that host an extraordinary wealth of species, among which are numerous local endemics, to this are added historical and cultural values, as there are areas where archaeological features and other manifestations that denote the development of Aboriginal cultures of the Pre-Columbian Era.
The aforementioned characteristics show that the park is the bearer of ecological, floristic, faunistic, historical, cultural characteristics, as well as aesthetic and recreational potentialities, which determined that on December 3, 1999, it was declared by UNESCO: "Heritage of the Humanity".
The geological-geomorphological, edaphic and climatic peculiarities condition the existence of a diversity of plant formations that are characterized by their exclusivity, high biodiversity, fragility and vulnerability to any aggression of a use without adequate regulation and these are: the mangrove forest ( mangrove), evergreen microphyllous forest (dry forest), coastal and subcoastal xeromorphic scrub (coastal manigua) and rocky and sandy coast vegetation complexes, in which the floristic resources with potential for use were inventoried and yielded that 75.5 % of the total species that inhabit the park are known utility as timber, medicinal, melliferous, ornamental, industrial, edible by man and animals, other uses (dyeing, artisanal and religious) and some can cause damage to man already either as phytotoxic or poisonous. (Table # 1)
|Food to fauna||38|
|I feed the man||16|
The species with the greatest diversity of use are the copey (Clusia rosea), yagruma (Cecropiaschreberiana), almácigo (Bursera simaruba) and the coconut tree (Cocos nucifera).
In the area under study there are numerous uses that are historically recognized and conferred on phyto resources, thus, for example, the timber plants most used by the population that lives there are represented by numerous trees such as the baría (Cordia gerascanthus), majagua ( Hibiscus elatus) and mahogany (Switenia mahogoni), a jewel of Nature, universally famous for the quality of its wood, and its extensive use in cabinetmaking, crafts and sculpture.
Beekeepers show interest in the typical mangrove species such as the black or black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) that presents cream-colored flowers to which many bees come for their copious secretion of nectar, this honey has a brackish flavor, the patabán (Laguncularia racemosa) which also has excellent quality honey and yaiti (Ateramnus lucidus) which produces a large quantity of pollen that bees transport to feed the hives.
Among the benefits that the Biodiversity of the park offers us are also those related to the feeding of man and animals, as examples can be cited: the pitaya (Selenicereus grandiflorus), yaya (Oxandra lanceolata), icaco (Chrisobalanus icaco), guano Cana (Sabal parvifolia), Guinea grass (Panicum maximum), Chivo vine (Centrosema pubescens), guairaje (Eugenia axillaris) and jocuma (Sideroxylon foetidissimum) with fleshy fruits that when eaten by birds distribute the seeds and help the dispersion. Some crops such as grains, cereals and vegetables are also common in human food.
Although little represented in terms of number, the existence of some toxic species such as yaiti (Ateramnus lucidus) and guao de costa (Comocladia dentata) that have caustic latex that causes swelling and urticaria in people is also found. (Argemone mexicana) which, in addition to being toxic, is used for medicinal purposes.
The knowledge of toxic plants by the population is very useful since in many opportunities they are supplied to animals as forage and can cause serious affectations, such is the case of yaba (Andira inermis) that its fruits serve as food for the Bats, however, the seeds consumed in large quantities are poisonous and the marruyero liana (Urechites lutea) that caused severe damage in cattle when ingesting this plant in grasslands of the Granma province. (Luís Catasús, personal commun.)
The use of herbs or medicinal plants has been coupled with the socio-cultural development of man, therefore the tradition of medicine is linked to folklore. The coconut tree (Cocos nucifera) is one of the plants that has earned the name of "Tree of life" for the various useful products it provides, it is also used in Afro-Cuban ceremonies and in different ritual uses, the Ceiba (Ceiba pentandra ) called “Sacred Tree” of Afro-Cuban religions, yagruma (Cecropia schreberiana) also used in ritual activities and to combat respiratory diseases, guajaca (Tillandsia usneoides) for skin conditions and bija (Bixa orellana) that in addition to being used as astringents, diuretics and aphrodisiac, its popularity is given by the coloring properties it presents.
The significance that these resources have had in sociocultural traditions, their various possibilities of use and their religious connotation in the main syncretic cults of the country is evident.
The excessive use of some species for industrial and ornamental purposes can have dire implications for some genetic resources present in the park, such as the yuraguama or guano de costa (Coccothrinax victorini), a local endemic species (Photo1) widely used in years ago by fishermen for make lobster traps, blankets, rustic buildings and for beach decoration; There are also botanical relics of great significance that deserve the protection of their genofondo, such as the old bighorn avocado (Dendrocereus nudiflorus), a cactus that must have been contemplated by the aborigines who inhabited the territory (photo 2). Orchids are also highly persecuted by collectors, among them is one of the smallest in Cuba and in the park, known as the dwarf orchid (Tetramicra malpighiarum), a species classified as critically endangered (photo 3). Guanos and curujeyes are used for their fibers in crafts and as construction material, so they are widely used.
That is why the work priorities of this Protected Area are focused on the conservation of flora and wild fauna, conservation of genetic funds, the rescue of endangered species and the rational use of natural resources, among others, elements that are achieved through the development of conservation projects and the implementation of educational programs derived from the National Environmental Education Program existing in the country. All these actions are included in the Management Book of this National Park.
To support the aforementioned and starting from the fundamental premise that to conserve it is necessary to know, the Center for Environmental Education Studies of the Pedagogical University of Granma (CEEA) develops an educational project entitled: "Knowledge of the Biodiversity of Granma through environmental disclosure ”, whose objectives are aimed at environmental work with the community that lives in it, its surroundings and with the school that, as an educational institution, has the mission of transmitting knowledge, forming values, developing habits and skills based on of the protection of the Environment.
For this, various activities have been developed that allow linking the school with the Protected Area, among which are: workshops, educational talks with the inhabitants about the state of conservation of the ecosystems, the floristic resources found in the area, as well such as the possible use that can be made of them, projection of videos with images of plants frequently used by man that are strongly affected, excursions and itineraries to carry out inventories of plant and animal species in the area where the school is located, which allows the student to directly explore and manipulate the object of their knowledge by being in direct contact with Nature. In addition, training activities are developed for teachers, dissemination of local Biodiversity using educational materials, such as bulletins and supplements where the values of some sites within the park are highlighted.
The Environmental Education work developed in this community with children, youth and adults was based on the principle of practical-active work with the collegiate participation of community leaders, decision-makers, teachers and leaders of the different mass organizations, involving the largest number of people and it was achieved that these become transforming agents by participating directly as executors in all the activities developed by the project and in others that are carried out in conjunction with the technicians and specialists of this Protected Area.
By way of conclusion, it can be argued that the Flora with potential for use present in the Desembarco del Granma National Park is rich and diverse, it has been used from the populations of our aborigines to the current communities and represents the direct and indirect basis of various activities economic, social, aesthetic and cultural, for which it is of great importance to strengthen education, communication and environmental dissemination together with the inhabitants of the area as a way to guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of the Plant Biological Diversity present there.
* Authors: MSc. Elsa Hernández Sabourín. Assistant Professor
MSc. Sergio Torres Zamora. Assistant Professor
MSc. Débora Manchón Reina. Assistant Professor
Lic. Herlinda Remón Castillo Assistant Professor
"Center for Environmental Education Studies"
Pedagogical University "Blas Roca Calderío"