Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

Cuba
Inscribed in
2001
Criteria
(ix)
(x)
Designation
Biosphere reserve,
IBA,
KBA

Complex geology and varied topography have given rise to a diversity of ecosystems and species unmatched in the insular Caribbean and created one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth. Many of the underlying rocks are toxic to plants so species have had to adapt to survive in these hostile conditions. This unique process of evolution has resulted in the development of many new species and the park is one of the most important sites in the Western Hemisphere for the conservation of endemic flora. Endemism of vertebrates and invertebrates is also very high. © UNESCO

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
01 Aug 2017
Good with some concerns
The conservation outlook for the site is positive, largely thanks to the remoteness of the area and its inaccessibility. The main threats to the values of the Park have been the subjects of management program and the site appears to be recovering from the degradation of habitats that occurred before the Park attained World Heritage Status. Mining represents the most serious potential threat to the site’s values. Since 1995 new mining has not been allowed to proceed within the Park. However, until the government has made an unequivocal commitment to revoke the mining concessions granted within the boundaries of the property, or those in its periphery that could affect the property, this remains a very high potential threat to the site’s values.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The main threats to the values of the Park have been the subjects of management program and the site appears to be recovering from the degradation of habitats that occurred before the Park attained World Heritage Status. However, certain areas, particularly those on poor soils with high erosion impacts, will require longer time to recover.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
Current threats to the site’s values include invasive and exotic species, fires and climate change, but overall their level is low and the site is well protected by its remoteness. Mining represents the most serious potential threat to the site’s values. Since 1995 new mining has not been allowed to proceed within the Park. However, until the government has made an unequivocal commitment to revoke the mining concessions granted within the boundaries of the property, or those in its periphery that could affect the property, this remains a very high potential threat to the site’s values.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Effective
The site’s protection and management is mostly effective. However, certain aspects could be improved, particularly sustainable finance and monitoring.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
01 Aug 2017

Description of values

Evolution of communities and species

Criterion
(ix)
The size, altitudinal diversity, complex lithologies, and landform diversity of Alejandro de Humboldt National Park (AHNP) have resulted in a range of ecosystems and species unmatched in the Insular Caribbean. It was a Miocene-Pleistocene refuge site, particularly in the glacial eras, for the Caribbean biota. The fresh water rivers that flow off the peaks of the park are some of the largest in the insular Caribbean and because of this have high freshwater biological diversity. Because of the serpentine, peridotite, karst and pseudokarst geology of the region, AHNP is an excellent example of ongoing processes in the evolution of species and communities on underlying rocks that pose special challenges to plant survival. (Justification for inscription, 2001, Draft SoOUV, 2010).

Diversity of habitats and species

Criterion
(x)
This Park contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of terrestrial biological diversity in the entire insular Caribbean. It contains 16 of 28 plant formations defined for Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, which is a unique biogeographic province. It is one of the most important sites for conservation of endemic flora in the entire Western Hemisphere – nearly 70% of the 1,302 spermatophytes already described, of an estimated total of 1,800-2,000, are endemic to the park. AHNP is one of the most biologically diverse terrestrial tropical ecosystems in an island setting anywhere on earth. Endemism rates for vertebrates and invertebrates found in the park are also very high. Many of these are threatened because of their small range. Because of their uniqueness and the fact that they represent unique evolutionary processes, they are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science and conservation. (Justification for inscription, 2001; Draft SoOUV, 2010).
Species of particular conservation concern
The Park is recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International, and as an Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site.
Critically Endangered Birds: Ivory billed woodpecker (last sighted in 1986); and Cuban Kite (sighted in 2011)..
Threatened Birds: Masked Duck, Gundlach’s Hawk, Sharpe-shinned Hawk, Grey-fronted Quail-dove, Cuban Parrot, Cuban Parakeet, Giant Kindgbird, Cuban Crow, Bee Hummingbird (the world’s smallest bird).
Threatened Mammals: Cuban Solenodon (endemic), 2 endemic species of Hutia, Caribbean Manatee
Other Species of Concern: 2 species of endemic bats, 3 new species of Anolis lizard; Gervais’funnel-eared bat (the world’s smallest); endemic Iberia frog, the world’s smallest (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005)
The site has the richest endemism of the country and the biggest conserved mountainous ecosystem remaining in Cuba. (UNDP, 2011)

Assessment information

Low Threat
Current threats to the site’s values include invasive and exotic species, fires and climate change, but overall their level is low.
Industrial/ Military Effluents
Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Effluents from artisanal mining, old mining areas and roads, from the erosion of deforested areas are continuing problems, though their effects on the biota at not well understood. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005)
Housing/ Urban Areas
Very Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
There is a total of 43 local communities, of which 11 are living inside the park, but in a very limited area – 10 in the buffer zone and 22 in the influence zone – a total of 5.450 habitant, which have a relatively low impact on the park (Management Plan 2009-2013).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
An ever present and increasing danger because of climate change, though there have been no fires during the past 3 years. (World Heritage Committee, 36.Com.SOC, 2012)
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
Low Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Widespread predation of native species by invasive mice, rats, dogs, cats, pigs, and mongoose (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005). Replacement of native tree species though faster growing Casuarina, used for restoration of degraded mining areas and roads in the past.
Storms/Flooding
High Threat
Inside site
Outside site
The increasing frequency and severity of hurricanes is a major problem for management. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005). However, the damage caused by Hurricane Ike, which affected forest areas throughout several sectors of the park, does not appear to have created serious or irreversible impacts to the values and integrity of the property and available evidence appears to confirm that the property is recovering well (SOC report, 2010).
High Threat
Mining represents the most serious potential threat to the site’s values. Since 1995 new mining has not been allowed to proceed within the Park. However, until the government has made an unequivocal commitment to revoke the mining concessions granted within the boundaries of the property, or those in its periphery that could affect the property, this remains a very high potential threat to the site’s values.
Mining/ Quarrying
High Threat
Inside site
Outside site
Previous to becoming a World Heritage site, several mining concessions were granted within the Park; the two largest covered 40% of the Park’s terrestrial area. Since 1995 new mining has not been allowed to proceed within the Park. However, until the government has made an unequivocal commitment to revoke the mining concessions granted within the boundaries of the property, or those in its periphery that could affect the property, this remains a very high potential threat to the site’s values (Rapid Biological Assessment, 2005; SOC report 2010).
Current threats to the site’s values include invasive and exotic species, fires and climate change, but overall their level is low and the site is well protected by its remoteness. Mining represents the most serious potential threat to the site’s values. Since 1995 new mining has not been allowed to proceed within the Park. However, until the government has made an unequivocal commitment to revoke the mining concessions granted within the boundaries of the property, or those in its periphery that could affect the property, this remains a very high potential threat to the site’s values.
Relationships with local people
Effective
There is a total of 43 local communities, of which 11 are living inside the park area – 10 in the buffer zone and 22 in the influence zone – a total of 5.450 inhabitants, which have a relatively low impact on the park.. Participatory approaches to management by the National Center for Protected Areas and on-going environmental education programmes have helped to reduce the impacts of local communities’ activities on the Park’s natural values (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005; World Heritage Committee, 34.COM.SOC 2012; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).
Legal framework
Some Concern
The Park was legally established in 1996 bringing together the management of the Jaguani and Cupeyal del Norte Natural Reserves, Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve, and Ojito de Agua Wildlife Refuge in one management unit of the National Center for Protected Areas.. In 2001 the Agreement 4262 of the executive committee of the ministerial board (Comité Ejecutivo del Consejo de Ministros) approved the area officially as a National Park. The Law on Environment, the Decree-Law on Forest Heritage and Wild Fauna (136/93), and the regulations for the Realization and Approval of Environmental Impact Assessments and for the State Environmental Inspection (168/95) provide the legal framework for protection of the Park (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005)
Enforcement
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Data Deficient
The Park is a priority area for the National Environmental Strategy and for the National Biodiversity, Protected Areas and Environmental Education Strategies (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005). Information on its integration into other regional and national planning systems, such as minerals planning, is currently lacking.
Management system
Highly Effective
A management plan for the 2009-2013 period provides overall guidance on management; this is complemented by annual Operational Plans. The Park currently has a staff of 65 and an annual budget of about 350,000 Cuban Pesos (World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012)
Management effectiveness
Highly Effective
In 2004, Cuba adopted a system to evaluate management effectiveness. The baseline score for the Park was 3.10 (out of a maximum of 4). The score advanced to 3.76 in 2007, but was set back to 3.60 in 2008 as a result of damages suffered from Hurricane Ike. By 2010 the effectiveness score had rebounded to 3.66. (World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC,2008; 34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012)
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Effective
In response to the Committee’s requests regarding the existing mining licenses within and in the vicinity of the site, the State Party has reiterated “its clear and unequivocal commitment not to explore or exploit in the boundaries of Alexander von Humboldt National Park” (State Party Report, 36.COM, 2012).
Boundaries
Effective
The boundaries of the World Heritage Site follow the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee at the time of its listing in 2001.
Sustainable finance
Some Concern
Regular finance by the Cuban Government at a level of about 350,000 Cuban Pesos per year for management of the Park is inadequate. Project support from the GEF, UNESCO MaB funding, Green Gold (a German NGO), and WWF/Canada have served to support management activities during specific periods, but do not represent a permanent solution (World Heritage Committee, 34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).
Staff training and development
Effective
With the support of international projects, the National Center for Protected Areas has carried out training programs for staff. However, more consistent and diversified capacity building efforts are still required (World Heritage Center, 33.COM.SOC, 2009; 34.COM.SOC, 2010).
Sustainable use
Effective
The environmental education program seeks to educate communities in terms of sustainable development and climate change with specific programs in sustainable agriculture, forest management, erosion control, reforestation, and fire control. Educational activities are reinforced with practical applications on the ground (World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC, 2009;34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).
Education and interpretation programs
Effective
An on-going environmental education program with communities in and around the Park has produced positive results with communities recognizing that the Park is an asset for their wellbeing and development (World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC, 2009; 34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).
Tourism and visitation management
Effective
Visitors to the Park are mainly nationals. Occasional foreign visitors are brought to the Park by travel agencies, academic institutions, and international organizations. Hotels are being developed along the coastal zone of the Park. Interpretive facilities include two small visitor centers and campsites, hiking trails (some self-interpreted and some where guides are available), and boat excursions in the Bahia de Taco (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005)
Monitoring
Some Concern
The only monitoring carried out on a regular basis are the observations and reports of Park Rangers during their regular patrols. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005). Rapid biological inventory was undertaken The Field Museum y Cornell Lab of Ornitology and Cuban institutions (Republica de Cuba, 2009)
Research
Some Concern
Some basic research is carried out by Park staff; occasional research is also carried out be external institutions; the largest, most systematic research was a 2004 Rapid Biological Assessment of the Park with the participation of 48 Cuban and foreign scientists (Rapid Biological Assessment, 2005). Additional research is needed on the state of the Park’s values.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
The site’s protection and management is mostly effective. However, certain aspects could be improved, particularly sustainable finance and monitoring.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Data Deficient
Data deficient
World Heritage values

Evolution of communities and species

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
Enough untouched habitat of all types remains to assure that evolutionary processes will continue, but additional habitat conversion could tip the balance the other way. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005; World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC, 2009;34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).

Diversity of habitats and species

Low Concern
Trend
Improving
The site appears to be recovering from the degradation of habitats that occurred before the Park attained World Heritage Status. However, certain areas, particularly those on poor soils with high erosion impacts, will require longer time to recover. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005; World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC, 2009;34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012)
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
The main threats to the values of the Park have been the subjects of management program and the site appears to be recovering from the degradation of habitats that occurred before the Park attained World Heritage Status. However, certain areas, particularly those on poor soils with high erosion impacts, will require longer time to recover.
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Law enforcement and environmental education program have resulted in increases in the populations of terrestrial species of particular conservation concern, but much work remains to sustain and enhance these positive trends into the future. (Rapid Biological Inventory, 2005; World Heritage Committee, 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC, 2009;34.COM.SOC, 2010; 36.COM.SOC, 2012).

Additional information

Food
The site provides sustenance to local communities through subsistence agriculture and livestock grazing.
Health and recreation
Tourism is currently at a relatively low level, but has the potential to increase significantly
Environmental services
Water provisioning is of major importance for the region (Welt hunger hilfe, 2012)
Conservation is by far the major benefit of the Site at all levels, but the Park also benefits local communities though subsistence agriculture, livestock grazing. Water provision is of major importance for the region. Further benefits could potentially be generated through nature oriented tourism.
Organization/ individuals Brief description of Active Projects
1 GEF A project entitled “Enhancing the prevention, control, and management of invasive alien species in vulnerable ecosystems in Cuba” was begun in June, 2011 and includes activities in the Park. http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/documents/document/3-15-11%20Cuba%203955-webdocs.pdf
2 German Agro Action The project Sustainable Management of Natural Resources from the Buffer Zone of the Alexander von Humboldt National Park, Guantánamo Province is currently under development by Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forest Technicians (ACTAF) with support from German Agro Action (UNEP, 2012, Welt hunger hilfe. 2012. Annual Report 2011).
3 The Rufford Foundation Butterflies and Moths of Monte Iberia, Cuba. Filling Gaps and Capacity Building toward its Conservation. http://www.rufford.org/projects/rayner_n%C3%BA%C3%B1ez
Site need title Brief description of potential site needs Support needed for following years
1 N.A. Information on the current state of the marine component of the site is insufficient and better monitoring programmes are needed.
2 N.A. Training for different skill levels and increase in staff numbers
3 N.A. Institution of long-term mechanisms to regularly raise funding for conservation activities that are in addition to what the Government can provide

References

References
1 Cuba: Humboldt. Rapid Biological Inventories, Report No. 14 , November, 2005. http://fm2.fmnh.org/rbi/results_cub14.asp
2 Map of mining concessions in the Alexander von Humboldt National Park. 2007.
3 Pérez Bauzá, C.A, A. Abrahante Hernández y M. Hernández Martínez 2014. Escuela y educación ambiental en el parque nacional“Alejandro de Humboldt”. Reto o necesidad. DELOS. Vol 7. N° 18. Febrero 2014 www.eumed.net/rev/delos/18
4 República de Cuba. 2009. IV Informe Nacional al Convenio de la Diversidad Biológica. http://www.cbd.int/doc/world/cu/cu-nr-04-es.pdf
5 Situation Report No. 8 “Hurricane GUSTAV”- September 3, 2008- 17:00 hrs.United Nations, Office of the Resident Coordinator in Cuba
6 The Rufford Foundation. 2013. http://www.rufford.org/projects/rayner_n%C3%BA%C3%B1ez http://www.rufford.org/projects/rayner_n%C3%BA%C3%B1ez Also at: PLoS One. 2013; 8(1): e53986. McFarland et al. 2013. A Winter Distribution Model for Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli), a Conservation Tool for a Threatened Migratory Songbird
7 UNDP. 2011. Enhancing the prevention, control, and management of invasive alien species in vulnerable ecosystems in Cuba. Project document. http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/documents/…
8 UNEP. 2012. Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Man and the Biosphere Reserves in Cuba: Bridging Managed and Natural Landscapes. GEF Project document
9 UNESCO , World Heritage Centre information sheet. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/839.
10 Welt hunger hilfe. 2012. Annual Report 2011.
11 World Heritage Committee Documents: 32.COM.SOC, 2008; 33.COM.SOC,2009; 34.COM.SOC; 36.COM.SOC, 2012