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Over 300 hectares of the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, a World Heritage Site, have benefited from actions seeking to reduce invasive alien species of flora and fauna.

Park expert Rolando Villaverde Lopez, and Gerardo Begue Quiala, a researcher and author of several studies on management and control of invasive fauna at the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, told Granma that while efforts were being made since last century to lessen the biological invasion at the park, outstanding for its biodiversity and endemism, over the last five years a combined drive had been going on bringing together forces from the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, the National Flora and Fauna Protection Enterprise and local farmers.

Invading species are those introduced into a region through river currents, winds, birds or man, which given their adaptability to the new environment end up replacing endemic specimens, to the detriment of local biodiversity.

Among the actions taken to mitigate the impact of invasive species of flora there are the elimination or regulation of populations of highly dominant plants, such as the ipil-ipil, the thorny and expansive marabu, the eucalyptus, the casuarina pine trees and African tulip, the latter among the 100 most dangerous species in the world given its expanding capacity, said Villaverde.

The mitigation measures include reforesting invaded areas with native plants or others representative of the region.

More than 20 percent of the area of the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park, stretching between the provinces of Guantanamo and Holguin, is affected by the presence of invasive species, causing damage not only to the local plant population but also to agriculture.

Among the exotic representatives of the animal kingdom are the wild dogs, cats and pigs, black rats, mongooses and the catfish (Clarias gariepinus), the latter threatening to become a plague given its high voracity.

Research conducted by Gerardo Begue at the Rio Hondo basin, in the community of Casimba Abajo, revealed that in a few years the catfish had wiped out the local joturo fish, endemic to Guantanamo and some neighboring rivers, also doing away with the local biajacas, eels and bullfrogs.

As a result of physical control measures against the most dangerous invading species, between 2006 and 2007 more than 150 wild dogs were caught in several park sites, most of them at La Melba, a heavily infested area.

Wild dogs and cats attack the almiquis (Solenodon cubanus), an endangered living fossil only found in the northeastern tip of  Cuba, in the Mayari and Baracoa municipalities. Traps are used against these predators, which together with the mongoose also pose a danger to people, since they transmit rabies, leptospirosis and other diseases.

Both Villaverde and Begue agree in labelling as positive the results of these actions underway at the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park aimed at a gradual control of invasive species of flora and fauna, although they note that much remains to be done and that the park needs to be kept under close watch by specialists, local authorities and the communities.

Source: Granma Daily

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