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Location of the Project
Location of the Project

Title of IWEco National sub-Project

Conservation and sustainability of biodiversity in Cuba through the integrated watershed and coastal area management approach.


Biodiversity loss has been identified as one of the principal environment problems affecting Cuba. In light of the need to conserve these globally important natural resources, the sub-project, “Conservation and sustainability of biodiversity in Cuba through the integrated watershed and coastal area management approach,” seeks to strengthen national capacities for the integrated management of critical watersheds and coastal areas that support biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.


The landscape of the country is segregated into 573 watersheds and harbours three of the most important wetlands in the entire Caribbean region. In addition to direct threats to biodiversity, these critical ecosystemsthat will be the focus of the project also face indirect threats from land and soil degradation, loss of forest cover, atmospheric, land and water pollution, compromised availability and quality of freshwater resources. Compounding this situation are the additional negative burdensthat climate change will impose. Consequently, it is national priority to reorient economic development in these target watershed areas to mainstream environmental considerations and reduce or reverse the impacts from unsustainable practices.

Cuba’s National sub-Project will implement integrated environmental management approaches, including land-use planning, good agricultural practices (GAP), better environmental practices (BEP), as well as identify and monitor environmental indicators, utilize mechanisms for strengthening cross-sectorial and inter-institutional coordination, and provide capacity-building in sub-project intervention areas. This sub-project will support the Government of Cuba develop alternative models and options for addressing a wider range of stresses affecting the biodiversity conservation within watersheds and coastal areas elsewhere in the country through up-scaling and replication.

The four sub-project intervention areas that have been selected for this sub-project are located in the western, central and eastern regions of the country and cover a combined surface area of 2,952.4 km2, or 2.69% of the land area of Cuba:

  1. The East Havana Demonstration Area along the country’s northern coast, which includes the Guanabo watershed with a surface area of 119.2 km2.
  2. The Cumanayagua-Cienfuegos Demonstration Area in the country’s southeast, which includes the Arimao watershed, with a surface area of 978.5 km2.
  3. The Trinidad-Sancti Spiritus Demonstration Area in the country’s southeast, including the Agabama River Basin, with a surface area of 1,713 km2.
  4. The Santiago de Cuba Demonstration Area in the country’s east, containing the San Juan watershed, with a surface area of 141.7 km2.

For three of the four selected watersheds: the Guanabo, Arimao and San Juan, the Cuban Government has committed that at least 136.7 km2 of existing forest cover will be protected and sustainably managed through the project. The extent of protected areas within the Agabama watershed will be identified and incorporated during the sub-project’s inception phase. For all four selected watersheds, the project will support the reforestation within impacted ecosystems over 1,690 hectares. Through on-site land and forest cover investments within 1,690 hectares over the target watershed areas, it is expected that an estimated 134,737.8 equivalent tonnes of CO2 over the life of the project, or an average of 26,947.6 tCO2eqv/year will be sequestered.

The four target watershed areas were selected through careful multi-stakeholder consultations in consideration of the approximately one million people living within them, or within their proximity in respect of the various different environmental stresses affecting each. Each site will require unique integrated approaches but will collectively provide Cuba with the experience and expertise to be able to implement a wide range of effective biodiversity conservation and sustainable land use management actions in the future within other watershed and coastal locations elsewhere in the country.

Finally, by integrating its work in the GEF focal areas of biodiversity, international waters, land degradation and the cross-cutting theme of sustainable forest management, Cuba looks to implement a comprehensive approach for sustainably managing key natural resources that in turn will contribute to the country’s sustainable economic development.

Status of Project

Since IWEco.Cuba was launched with the holding of the first National Workshop in November 2018 in the city of Cienfuegos, significant progress has been made. The project management team published a newsletter every quarter which provides updates on activities in all four watersheds:

Here are some highlights of recent activities:

  • Sharing of project research and monitoring results: Results of two studies conducted in the Arimao watershed under the project’s Environmental Monitoring component were shared virtually at the Fifth International Research Workshop on Management of Fragile Ecosystems, at the University of Cienfuegos.  Dr. C. Mabel Seisdedo provided an analysis of water quality indicators in the Habanilla Reservoir, and MSc. Regla M. Alomá focused on a set of indicators to assess the sustainability of ecosystem goods and services. Published in scientific journals some results of monitoring in one of the aquatic systems of the Arimao basin.
  • The publication of two scientific articles related to studies carried out in one of the Arimao basin: In recent issues of the Pan-American-Journal of Aquatic Sciences, 16 (3) and Harmful Algal Blooms, (69) by two groups of authors from CEAC.  The first, led by Dr. C. Mabel Seisdedo Losa titled: ‘Influence of environmental processes on indicators of water quality in the Hanabanilla reservoir, Cuba’; the second led by Lic. Aimeé Valle Prombol, was titled: ‘Limnoraphis robusta bloom in the Hanabanilla reservoir, central-southern Cuba’.
  • Evaluation of the effectiveness of project actions in the Arimao basin: Results of the Water Quality Index (ICA) applied, reflected a favorable change for both fluvial and marine-coastal waters, which corresponded with the evaluations based on the levels of chlorophyll a, another of the environmental indicators analyzed.
  • The preparation of landscape maps for the Guanabo and Arimao basins, and field visits to gather geological-geomorphological data as well as economic, social and environmental information from several population centres.
  • Monitoring of activities in the Agabama Basin demonstration area, and implementation of the Environmental Education Program "Conservators of Biodiversity”.
  • Analysis of the economic impact and productive yields of the organic Recreo 5 farm, La Coca Ecological Reserve in the demonstration area of Havana del Este. This included a broad inventory of birds (both native and migratory), flora, vegetables, spices, fruit trees and medicinal plants found in the Reserve and surroundings.  It also noted an increase in the number and types of butterflies in the area. Despite the Covid 19 situation, work with the educational children's workshops continued.
  • In December 2021, launch of a contest called “My Soil Lives” in commemoration of World Soil Day in several elementary schools located in all four watersheds in IWEco.cuba. This contest aims to encourage children, through drawing, to care for and use the soil sustainably as a natural resource and to participate in the celebration campaign launched by the World Alliance for Soil and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Agriculture, for June 5 World Soil Day.
  • In December 2021, inauguration of the PROBIOMAR Project financed by the GEF Small Grants Program in the Castillo de Jagua community in Cienfuegos. This project provides additional support for the educational subcomponent of IWEco.Cuba, which aims to contribute to the protection of marine-coastal biodiversity through community participation, specifically through promotion of techno-productive fishing practices inside and outside the bay of Cienfueguera. Activities included an exchange with the fishermen and women who participate in the project, to raise awareness about the leading role they must play in protecting the fish biodiversity and environmental sustainability and a programme of conferences has been planned for the centre.
  • In November 2021, monitoring of activities in the Guanabo Watershed demonstration project, including a tour of areas of the Coca Dam.  This included a presentation of advances in the implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), in the execution of measures for the conservation of soils which include dams, barriers and reconstruction of the riverbanks.
  • In November and December 2021, monitoring of the demonstration area of ​​the San Juan basin in Santiago de Cuba which included visits to the Eastern Center for Ecosystems and Biodiversity (BIOECO), the Gran Piedra Baconao Agroforestry Company, the Santiago Norte UEB and the Hermanos Marañón Farm as well as a tour of the "Hermanos Marañón" Forestry Community where the diversity of its productions in meats and vegetables was featured. The reforestation area "La Mandarina" was also visited - an area of ​​4 ha has been reforested, with native species such as mahogany, cedar, carob, bijáguara, and others such as bamboo, widely used in protective strips of rivers and streams.
  • Call for the 7th edition of the Master's Academic Program in Integrated Management of Coastal Zones by the Center for Sociocultural Studies (CESOC) of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Cienfuegos, Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and the Center for Environmental Studies of Cienfuegos (CEAC). This will be carried out part-time, blended, one week per month and will last 2 years.
  • The National Workshop on Environmental Management of the Guanabo, Arimao and San Juan basins, three of the intervention basins of the IWEco.cuba project, was held in early February in the city of Trinidad, Santi Spíritus province.
  • In January 2022, the practical theoretical workshop for the determination of landscape units in the Arimao basin was held to determine, through the use of the QGIS geographic information system and field work, the landscape units of the mountainous area of the river basin as a basis for environmental planning.

Project Objectives and Impact

Project Objectives and Impact

Cuba National sub-Project Background

Please click here to download the Cuba National sub-Project Background document.

Progress and updates on CubaNational sub-Project

National Focal Point

Alain Munoz - Caravaca
Centro de Estudios Ambientales de Cienfuegos (CEAC)

National Project Coordinator

Alain Munoz-Caravaca

Snapshots of Biodiversity in Cuba:

Cuba snapshot poster eng

Poster Introduction and Featured Species

download the poster

The biological diversity of Cuba is the greatest in the Caribbean in terms of number of floral and faunal species and endemism.  It is ranked among the ten most important islands in the world in terms of biodiversity richness.  Approximately 19,500 species of flora and fauna have been identified, with 8,378 of these, or 42.7%, being endemic.  These consist primarily of flowering plants, insects, molluscs and arachnids.  The greatest degree of endemism is among flowering plants, insects and molluscs, and amphibians and reptiles among vertebrates.  Of the country’s 7,994 identified species of plants, 52.4% are endemic, and of these over 30% are threatened. 

Much of this biodiversity is concentrated in the four sites addressed by the IWEco.Cuba project in the western, central and eastern regions of the country.


La diversidad biológica de Cuba es la mayor del Caribe en cuanto al número de especies de flora y fauna y endemismo. Está clasificada entre las diez islas más importantes del mundo en términos de riqueza de biodiversidad. Se han identificado aproximadamente 19.500 especies de flora y fauna, de las cuales 8.378, o el 42,7%, son endémicas. Estos consisten principalmente en plantas con flores, insectos, moluscos y arácnidos. El mayor grado de endemismo se distribuye entre plantas con flores, insectos y moluscos, y anfibios y reptiles entre vertebrados. De las 7.994 especies de plantas identificadas en el país, el 52,4% son endémicas y de estas más del 30% están amenazadas.

Gran parte de esta biodiversidad se concentra en los cuatro sitios que aborda el proyecto IWEco.Cuba en las regiones occidental, central y oriental del país.

1. Cuban racer (Jubo, jubo de sabana o sabanero)

Scientific name: Cubophis cantherigerus (Bibron, 1840)

Photo credits: Staff of Cienfuegos Botanical Garden.

Distribution: It is one of the most abundant and widely distributed snakes in our country, it lives throughout the island of Cuba and in most of the island groups.

Brief description: Largest species of the Dipsadidae family found in Cuba. It has a grey dorsum with black spots, and the ventral color is light grey. The top of the head, behind the eyes, has a black line, similar to an “eyelash”. It is one of the few species that can be seen sunning itself on the coldest days. It hides under stones, among the tall grasses of the savannahs, in the gardens and parks of cities and towns. Its diet is very varied - it eats lizards, frogs, small chickens, rodents, bats, and even new-born sea turtles. It moves fast but does not climb trees and are not a constrictor species but mostly eat their prey alive. This species is very aggressive and may bite, especially after territorial and defensive situations facing potential predators or enemies, showing behaviour similar to that of the cobra.


Nombre común:  Jubo, jubo de sabana o sabanero

Nombre científico: Cubophis cantherigerus (Bibron, 1840)

Créditos de la foto: Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos

Localización: Es uno de los ofidios más abundantes y de más amplia distribución en nuestro país, vive en toda la isla de Cuba y en la mayoría de los grupos insulares.

Breve descripción: Especie de mayor tamaño de la familia Dipsadidae en Cuba. El dorso es de color gris plomizo con manchas negras, y el vientre, gris claro. En el dorso de la cabeza hay una mancha negra y en sus lados, una depresión de la piel detrás del ojo, de color negro, como una “pestaña”. Es una de las pocas especies que puede ser vista asoleándose en los días más fríos. Se esconde debajo de piedras, entre las hierbas altas de las sabanas, en los jardines y en los parques de ciudades y pueblos. Su alimentación es muy variada, ingiere lagartijas, ranas, polluelos, guayabitos, murciélagos y hasta neonatos de tortugas marinas. Son rápidos de movimientos, pero no suben árboles, tampoco son especies constrictoras, sino que ingieren a sus presas vivas. El jubo de sabana, puede morder, especialmente después de hacer su demostración de agresividad similar a la de las cobras. 

2. Cuban Tody

Scientific name: Todus multicolor Gould, 1837.

Photo credit:Idania Garcia Castillo

Location:  Arimao basin, protected area Guanaroca-Punta Gavilán, forest of the Cienfuegos province.

Brief description: The Cuban Tody is endemic to Cuba. It is found in the country's shady forests and coastal vegetation. It is small, has short wings and tail and its beak is long, straight and flattened. It presents striking colours in the plumage that go from bright green on its head and dorsal part, red on the throat to pale grey and pink on the ventral part. It constructs its nest digging tunnels in rotten wood, vertical sand or dirt gullies and small natural cavities in the limestone of cliffs or caves, where it lays between 2 and 4 white eggs. It feeds mostly on caterpillars, adult insects and their larvae, spiders and small lizards. This bird flies only short distances, emitting a peculiar sound produced by the wings, that gives rise to its common name. Human intrusion in its habitat represents a threat to its population.


Nombre común: Cartacuba o Pedorrera

Nombre científico: Todus multicolor Gould, 1837.

Créditos de la foto: Idania Garcia Castillo.

Localización: Cuenca Arimao, AP Guanaroca-Punta Gavilán, Bosques de la provincia de Cienfuegos. 

Breve descripción: Orden Coraciiformes. Familia Todidae. Ave endémica de Cuba, residente permanente. Presente en los bosques sombríos del país y la vegetación costera. De pequeño tamaño, alas y cola cortas; pico largo, recto y aplanado. Presenta llamativos colores en el plumaje que van desde el verde brillante en su cabeza y parte dorsal, el rojo en la garganta hasta gris pálido y rosado en la parte ventral. Excavan túneles en madera podrida, barrancos de arena o de tierra verticales y pequeñas cavidades naturales en la piedra caliza de farallones o cuevas, donde ponen entre 2 y 4 huevos de color blanco. Se alimentan de orugas, insectos adultos y sus larvas, arañas y pequeñas lagartijas. Vuela sólo cortas distancias, con un peculiar sonido producido por las alas que da lugar a su nombre común. La antropización extrema de su hábitat es una de las amenazas que sufre esta especie.

3. Coastal Coral Tree (Sp. Piñón, piñón espinoso)

Scientific name: Erythrina elenae

Photo credit: Staff of the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens

Location: It is found at four locations in Pico San Juan, Cienfuegos; antler of Jarico and lookout of Topes de Collantes, Sancti Spíritus and in Hanabanilla, Villa Clara.

Brief description: It is a 10 m high tree, with spiny trunk and branches and reddish-brown bark. It has alternate and compound leaves. Inflorescences occur in clusters with between 15 and 20 red flowers. It is usually found on the edges of limestone cliffs. This plant is endemic to the semi-deciduous forests (mesophyllous and microphyllous) of the mountains of Guamuhaya in the central region of Cuba. This species is Critically Endangered (CR) due to the low number of individuals in its populations, geographic isolation and the deterioration of its habitat due to felling of trees and invasive species. Their populations are found in protected areas with different management categories, but there is no integrated management program for the species. At present, attempts are being made to reproduce it by seed in the Topes de Collantes protected area and it is cultivated ex situ in the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens.


Nombre común: Piñón, piñón espinoso

Nombre científico: Erythrina elenae R.A. Howard & W.R. Briggs

Créditos de la foto: Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos

Localización: Se conocen cuatro poblaciones en Pico San Juan, Cienfuegos; mogote de Jarico y mirador de Topes de Collantes, Sancti Spíritus y en Hanabanilla, Villa Clara. 

Breve descripción: Familia: Leguminosae (Fabaceae). Árbol de unos 10 m de altura. Tronco y ramas espinosos y corteza pardo-rojiza. Hojas alternas y compuestas. Inflorescencias en racimos, entre 15 y 20 flores de color rojo. Usualmente se le encuentra en bordes de farallones calizos. Esta planta es endémica de los bosques semideciduos (mesófilo y micrófilo) de las montañas de Guamuhaya, región central de Cuba. La especie se encuentra en peligro crítico (CR) por el escaso número de individuos de sus poblaciones, el aislamiento de las mismas y el deterioro de su hábitat por la tala y la invasión de especies exóticas. Sus poblaciones se encuentran en áreas protegidas con diferentes categorías de manejo, pero no existe un programa de manejo integrado para la especie. Actualmente se intenta reproducir por semillas por parte del personal técnico del área protegida Topes de Collantes y se cultiva ex situ en el Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos.

4. West Indian Walnut (Sp. Nogal del país)

Scientific name: Juglans jamaicensis C. DC.

Photo credit: Staff of the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens

Location: Arimao basin, Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Brief description: Deciduous tree 20-25 m tall. Trunk with ribbed and wrinkled bark, dark brown in color; young branches reddish to brown. It has alternate leaves with serrated margins and undersides with brownish-red hairs towards the veins. The inflorescence and flowers usually have brown-reddish hairs and flowers grow in pairs. This tree is a Cuban native species, inhabits semi-deciduous forest (mesophyllous) that develop up to 900 m above-sea-level. It usually lives near running water bodies (rivers, streams), mostly on basic soils. The species is Critically Endangered (CR) due to the decrease in the quality of its habitat because of cattle raising and the felling of forests, as well as the extraction of its wood for cabinetmaking. This species is registered in the red list of vascular flora and among the 50 most threatened plants in Cuba. It is also found in some protected areas such as Hanabanilla, in Villa Clara province.


Nombre común: Nogal del país 

Nombre científico: Juglans jamaicensis C. DC.

Créditos de la foto: Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos

Localización: Cuenca Arimao, Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Breve descripción: Familia: Juglandaceae. Árbol caducifolio de 20-25 m de alto. Tronco con corteza acostillada y arrugada, de color pardo oscuro; ramas jóvenes rojizas a pardas. Hojas alternas con margen aserrado y envés con pelos rojo-parduzcos hacia las venas. Inflorescencias y flores a menudo con pelos rojo-parduzcos, flores en pares. Planta nativa de Cuba, propia de bosques semideciduos (mesófilo) que se desarrollan hasta los 900 m.s.m. Por lo general vive cerca de cursos de agua, mayormente en suelos básicos. La especie se encuentra en peligro crítico (CR) debido a la disminución de la calidad del hábitat a causa del desarrollo de la ganadería y la tala de bosques, así como, la extracción de su madera para ebanistería. Esta especie se registra en la lista roja de la flora vascular y entre las 50 plantas más amenazadas del país. Algunas de sus poblaciones se encuentran en áreas protegidas como Hanabanilla, Villa Clara.

5. Escambray bearded anole (Sp. Chipojo ceniciento, Camaleón bobo)

Scientific name: Anolis guamuhaya

Photo credit: Staff of the Cienfuegos Botanical Gardens

Location: Arimao basin, Carlota mine, Cienfuegos, between Jibacoa and Topes de

Collantes, Villa Clara province, Guamuhaya Massif, Cuba.

Brief description: This species is easily recognized by its greenish-grey body coloration and scales on the edge of the gular fold that are less elongated compared to the rest of the lizards of this group. It is endemic to the Guamuhaya massif. It inhabits the trunks and branches of trees in the submontane mesophyllous evergreen forest, between 500 to 900 meters above-sea-level. It has been found at heights above the ground between 2 to 6m, always in shaded places. It feeds mostly on large insects, molluscs, flowers and fruits. The Escambray bearded anole is classified as an Endangered Species (EN) according to The Red Book of Vertebrates of Cuba (González et al., 2012). The main threat to its population is habitat fragmentation due to deforestation, in a very small geographical and ecological area, due to forestry development, tourism and the negative impact of human expansion.


Nombre común:  Chipojo ceniciento, Camaleón bobo

Nombre científico: Anolis guamuhaya (Garrido, Pérez-Beato y Moreno, 1991)

Créditos de la foto: Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos 

localización: Cuenca Arimao, Mina Carlota, Cienfuegos, entre Jibacoa y Topes de Collantes, provincia de Villa Clara, Macizo de Guamuhaya, Cuba. 

Breve descripción: Familia: Dactyloidae. La especie se caracteriza por una coloración más verdosa y escamas en el borde del pliegue gular menos alargadas en comparación con el resto del grupo de camaleones.  Es endémica del Macizo de Guamuhaya. Habita en los troncos y ramas de árboles del bosque siempreverde mesófilo submontano entre 500 y 900m m.s.m. Se le ha visto en alturas sobre el suelo entre 2 y 6 m, siempre en lugares sombreados. Su alimentación está basada principalmente en insectos grandes, moluscos, flores y frutos. Se considera una especie en peligro (EN) según el Libro Rojo de los Vertebrados de Cuba (González et al., 2012). La amenaza principal es la fragmentación del hábitat por deforestación, en un área geográfica y ecológica muy reducida, debido al desarrollo forestal, el turismo nacional e internacional y la acción humana negativa directa e indirecta.

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