Today, when global warming reveals its ravages in the main coral ecosystems of the planet, the good health of the Cuban reefs is a sign of encouragement for the Caribbean.
Whitening is a phenomenon associated with climate change that has lately severely affected the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and the reefs of the Gulf of Mexico.
According to specialized sources, consecutive coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017 damaged about 1,500 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef, two-thirds of the total of that site, declared a World Heritage Site.
To worsen the future scenario, a study published by the journal Nature predicted that in less than 40 years 70 percent of deep-sea reefs could be in corrosive waters due to ocean acidification.
According to the authors, the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (CO2) causes a series of changes in marine chemistry (acidification) that manifest not only as a decrease in the pH of the water but through a set of effects associated chemicals.
One of those changes is the reduction of concentrations of carbonate ions, essential for the life of reefs that live more than three thousand meters deep.
The authors lamented that even if humanity achieves the goal set at the Paris Summit of not exceeding two degrees Celsius of global warming, corals will be affected.
Cuba: an isolated archipelago
According to the director of the National Center for Protected Areas (CNAP) of the Greater Antilles, Carlos Alberto Díaz, the corals that surround the country are healthy.
“There is very little whitening in specific locations, which are already reported and monitored,” he said.
In fact, a scientific expedition carried out by experts from the Caribbean island and the United States, confirmed his claim and the existence of more than 130 species of fish and 260 sponges populating the coastal areas.
The trip during more than twenty days between the months of May and June of 2017 that covered a thousand 430 nautical miles allowed to observe the distribution of the communities of mesophotic reefs -ecosystems that depend on the light- at a depth of between 30 and 200 meters, compare your health and connection with others in the southeastern United States and the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the director of the CNAP, given the depth of the Cuban mesophotic reefs, these ecosystems do not suffer so much from the impact of rising sea temperatures and acidification of the waters, risk factors that enhance coral bleaching or death.
“The health of our corals has a lot to do with the proper management of the land, the practice of organic agriculture and the controlled and efficient use of fertilizers, among other strategies at the national level,” he said.
This is because what is thrown on the land reaches the river and continues its way to the sea, leaving a path of environmental conditions, said Diaz.
The official confirmed that the CNAP continues to monitor the reefs and prepare strategies to be resilient in the face of the threat of climate change and global warming.
In addition, he confirmed that the 211 protected areas in Cuba represent 20, 2 percent of the national territory, including the insular marine platform to a depth of 200 meters.
“We estimate that the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP), with its more than six thousand workers scattered throughout the country, will administer about 17 percent of the land part and 25 percent of the marine platform,” he said.
To the rescue of the corals
Specifically, in the protection of the corals, Cuba promotes several novel projects, limited to the State Plan for the confrontation to climate change: Life Task.
Since January, he began a study on coral reefs in the Jardines de la Reina National Park, to achieve sustainable management of coastal ecosystems and respond to climate change.
The main researcher of the project, Leslie Hernández, told the national press that the team analyzes corals and octocorals, due to their importance as regulators of the health of the planet, although their response to meteorological events is still unknown.
The actions also include the characterization of the diving sites, evaluation of the marine habitats and the community of stony corals.
Hernandez stressed that these investigations help to perfect the conservation functions of the environments in the keys of the Cuban south.
Jardines de la Reina is a group of islets located on the southern coast of the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Camagüey, considered the largest marine reserve in the Caribbean and inhabited by the largest reef ridges in the country.
Its geographic isolation due to its distance from the population nuclei since its only access route is the maritime, also make it the most virgin archipelago of the Caribbean.
At the other end of Cuba is another of the most ambitious actions for the protection and rescue of the reefs.
In the Guanahacabibes peninsula, the westernmost point on the island located in the Pinar del Rio province, the country’s first nursery was created for the planting of corals.
This project aims to rescue the critically endangered species Acroporacervicornis, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Commonly known as deer horn, that coral was widely distributed throughout the Caribbean coastal region and was considered one of the leading reef trainers.
However, since the 1980s there have been serious affectations associated with diseases and other elements of risk such as pollution, overfishing, diving, and the proliferation of invasive species.
With these and other actions in the pipeline, it is remarkable that Cuba has not remained idle in the face of the imminent threat of climate change to its underwater ecosystems.
The actions adopted by the island will now be its guarantee for the future since the world does not show signs of changing or turning its back on CO2 emissions while the dollars support them.