By Ricardo Bruno Ojeda Lastre
Wetlands and agriculture together for growth, which emphasizes the need for the wetlands and agriculture sectors to work together to achieve the best common results.
Wetlands have sometimes been seen as an obstacle to agriculture, and they are still being drained and reclaimed to enable agricultural land. But the critical role that wetlands play in supporting agriculture is becoming better understood, and there are successful agricultural practices that support healthy wetlands.
What are wetlands?
The term wetlands refers to a wide variety of inland, coastal and marine habitats that share certain characteristics. It is generally identified as areas that are temporarily flooded, where the water table emerges on the surface or in low-permeability soils covered by shallow waters. All wetlands share a primary property: water plays a fundamental role in the ecosystem, in determining the structure and ecological functions of the wetland.
There are many definitions of the term wetlands, some based on mainly ecological criteria and others more oriented to issues related to their management. The Convention on Wetlands defines them broadly as: "extensions of marshes, swamps and peat bogs, or surfaces covered with water, be they natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, stagnant or current, fresh, brackish or salty, including extensions of sea water whose depth at low tide does not exceed six meters ”.
There is also another definition as broad as the previous one of the types of wetlands covered by this mission, which includes: “swamps and marshes, lakes and rivers, wet grasslands and peatlands, oases, estuaries, deltas and low tides, nearby marine areas to the coasts, mangroves and coral reefs, as well as artificial sites such as fish ponds, rice fields, reservoirs and salt flats. "
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that serves as a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
Negotiated in the 1960s by countries and non-governmental organizations concerned about the increasing loss and degradation of wetland habitats for migratory waterfowl, the treaty was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and entered into force in 1975. It is the only global treaty on the environment that deals with a particular type of ecosystem, and the member countries of the Convention encompass all geographical regions of the planet.
The Mission of the Convention is "the conservation and wise use of wetlands through local and national actions and thanks to international cooperation, as a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development throughout the world."
Cuba has been part of the Ramsar Convention since August 12, 2001. Cuban wetlands occupy an area of approximately 10,410 km2, which represents 9.3% of the country's surface.
The Cienaga de Zapata wetland, located south of the Matanzas province, is the largest and most exceptional in Cuba and the Insular Caribbean, which has earned it its inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance of the RAMSAR Convention. BUT THERE ARE ALSO OTHER SITES IN Cuba that have the same condition, they are: Humedal Biramas (south of Las Tunas and Granma), Humedal Delta del Cauto, Humedal Buenavista (located in the central region of Cuba), La Cienaga Lanier and Sur de la Isla de la Juventud (found in the southern part of the Isla de la Juventud), Río Máximo Wetland (Camaguey), Great Northern Wetland of Ciego de Ávila.
La Ciénaga de Zapata, is a paradisiacal place that occupies 4,500 square kilometers of the Cuban geography. Protected area from predation. In the estuaries and lagoons, Cuban crocodiles enjoy respected peace - without forgetting an official hatchery - and a long list of endemic animals that include the dwarf jutía. Golden trout, a coveted and controlled species, live in the “Laguna del Tesoro”, a natural freshwater reservoir of 900 hectares of mirror and several meters deep. For all this and much more, the Cienaga de Zapata also has the status of a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve,
The forest patrimony of the Ciénaga de Zapata is made up of: natural forests (233 265.3 ha), young plantations (928.2 ha) and established plantations (4 170.8 ha). According to The Field Museum 2005, it is estimated that there are around 1000 species of native plants grouped into 110 families, with 130 Cuban endemics standing out, of which 6 are local and 14 are rare or endangered species (Amorín, J, et al 2002 .
The fauna is represented by 15 species of Mammals, 258 of Birds, 43 of Reptiles, 4 of Fish and 16 of Amphibians, as well as a great variety of Insects and other Invertebrates. Among the animal species, 5 are locally endemic and 16 are in danger of extinction. This region is also one of the most important refuges for 65 species of migratory birds.
Regarding the animals, the values of the place transcend local borders, the Gallinuela de Santo Tomás and the Herminia (both discovered in 1926 by the Spanish naturalist Fermín Zanón Cervera) are exclusive birds of the area and considered as the most restricted habitat in the world.
To increase the attractiveness of the Ciénaga de Zapata, there are very deep caverns near the south coast, in which the waters vary from sweet above to totally salty in the depths.
Several representatives of the marine fauna live in them, including corals and fish. The zone constitutes a humid ecosystem or very humid lands that today are object of great interest for the environmental protection, since the Cienaga de Zapata and other coastal areas of Cuba constitute true natural laboratories.
The Biramas Wetland is the second most important in Cuba and is located along the southern coast of the Las Tunas and Granma provinces, exactly in the delta of the Cauto River. This wetland is characterized by its almost virgin environment, as there has been no human-caused damage.
Why is it important to conserve wetlands?
Wetlands are ecosystems of great importance due to the hydrological and ecological processes that occur in them and the biological diversity that they support. And in many cases they are critical habitats for seriously threatened species.
Various human activities require the natural resources provided by wetlands and therefore depend on the maintenance of their ecological conditions. Such activities include fishing, agriculture, forestry, wildlife management, grazing, transportation, recreation, and tourism. One of the fundamental aspects for which more attention has been focused on the conservation of wetlands in recent years is their importance for supplying fresh water for domestic, agricultural or industrial purposes.
Our country is privileged in this sense because we have a government that from the same year of the triumph of our Revolution has been interested and continues to be interested in the conservation, care and protection of all our Biodiversity and always under the infinite concern of our leader the commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz.
An example of this is the creation in the Cienaga de Zapata of the Coordinating Board made up of representatives of: Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Municipal Government, Municipal Agricultural Company, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Fisheries, Military Sector, National Police Revolutionary, Border Guards, Forest Guard Corps, Municipal State Forest Service. This board is governed by the CITMA Organ of the Zapata Swamp.
Currently, there is a territory management plan structured in five programs (CNAP. 2002, IGT 2006).
• Programs for the protection and management of resources (protection, forest management and management of species and ecosystems).
• Programs for public use (recreation and tourism and environmental education).
• Scientific research and monitoring program.
• Socio-economic program (social development and sustainable socio-economic activities)
• Administration program (training, integrated physical development and maintenance)
These management programs contemplate the functional zoning of the territory and include, in addition to the detailed and organized list of the actions to be carried out, the correspondence of these actions with the management problems and objectives, as well as the necessary resources and investments.
In 2013, the IX International Wetlands Symposium 2013 was held in the Cienaga de Zapata, sponsored by the Territorial Delegation of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of the province of Matanzas and the National Center for Protected Areas, attended by representatives of Canada , United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Holland and Italy.