Socio-industrial impact: Current status of the San Miguel de Parada Wetland

Socio-industrial impact: Current status of the San Miguel de Parada Wetland

For several

At present, one of the systems that receives a greater global gradual deterioration, resulting in an alarming decrease in its extensions in recent years, turn out to be wetlands. The San Miguel de Parada Wetland constitutes the largest within the Santiago de Cuba territory and is framed within the most industrialized sector with the greatest negative influence within the Province.

Socio-industrial impact: Current status of the San Miguel de Parada Wetland, Santiago de Cuba, CUBA


With the advent of the new century, socio-industrial development is by far the main source of deterioration of ecosystems and the environment that surrounds us worldwide. At present, one of the systems that receives a greater gradual global deterioration, resulting in turn in an alarming decrease in its extensions in recent years, turn out to be wetlands.

Wetlands are extensions of marshes, swamps and bogs or surfaces covered with water, whether natural or artificial, that can be permanently or temporarily flooded and sometimes comprise part of the marine habitat. Conservation of these ecosystems is of utmost importance, from the natural point of view, because they offer protection against storms and floods, help to maintain the water table, retain nutrients and sediments, also favoring the storage and purification of water on the one hand , and the food and shelter of numerous species of plants and animals.

The San Miguel de Parada Wetland (Fig. 1), constitutes the largest within the Santiago de Cuba territory with 2x 0.5 Km2, it is framed within the most industrialized sector and with the greatest negative influence within the Province. Among the main values ​​present in the area are the Manglar, Manigua Costera and Bosque de Galería plant formations, as well as the 123 species of birds that inhabit either periodically or permanently.

In this work a precise evaluation of the current state of the area is carried out, also listing the main impacts and sources that negatively influence the integrality of the wetland.

Fig. 1: Limit and accesses of the San Miguel de Parada Wetland Protected Area.

Physical-geographical overview

The industrial development of the city from the 1960s onwards eliminated the swamps and mangroves located between the Gascón and Los Guaos rivers, even affecting the western bank of the Los Guaos river, reducing the mangroves in the northern part of the Bay of Santiago de Cuba about 3.6 square kilometers that surround the Miradero Bay and is currently known as the San Miguel de Parada Wetland.

The Bay of Santiago de Cuba is a typical bag bay, it is located on the southern coast of the eastern part of Cuba. The city of the same name has developed on its banks, which is the second in the country and was formed by the flooding of the lower parts of the tectonic basin. The rivers that flow into this are: El Cobre, Los Guaos, Gascón, Yarayó and Yarto. The sediments deposited by the rivers that flow into the North and Northwest part of the Bay gave rise to the relative formation of extensive swamps that in the recent past occupied a strip of about four kilometers long where mangroves and marshes proliferated.

In the western part of this strip of marshy land, the sediments of the Los Guaos and El Cobre rivers, as they extended in the form of a delta, narrowed the northwestern lobe of the Bay forming a long and narrow inlet, which is known on the maps with the name from Miradero Bay.

Miradero Bay is oriented from SE to NW, is almost straight and is about two kilometers long, with a width that fluctuates around 500 meters. Its draft is less than two meters and its shores are formed by a wide strip of mangroves, which are the ones that reached the greatest development in the Bay of Santiago de Cuba.


The characteristic deposits of the San Miguel de Paradas Wetland are represented by quaternary sediments of marsh environments that include a mixture of marine and terrigenous sediments together with organic matter due to the mangrove litter.


The average annual temperature is around 26 ° C, with an average maximum between 32 and 34 ° C and an average annual minimum of 20 to 22 ° C. The precipitations are around 800 millimeters and the average relative humidity between 75 and 80%. The prevailing winds during the day from the South-Southeast and approximately from the North during the night.


The main water currents associated with the Refuge are those of the El Cobre and Los Guaos rivers. The El Cobre River crosses part of the Wetland in a West-East direction, ending at the southern limit of it. The Los Guaos River is outside the limits of the Wetland and empties in the vicinity of its eastern end.

The water regime is complex due to the coincidence of peculiar geographical characteristics. When the El Cobre and Los Guaos rivers, which limit the wetland, have large floods, they overflowed their channels, flooded the marshes that surround the Miradero Bay and their waters deposited fine sediments rich in nutrients.


The soils of San Miguel de Parada were developed on hydromorphic quaternary sediments, gleysate humic or peaty swamps, very plastic and salinized with a thickness of 5 to 10 m and fluctuating humidity in the great droughts.

Floristic and Faunistic Composition

The wetland is located within the Cabo Cruz-Baconao District according to the phytogeographic regionalization of López et al. (1992). Within this District it is located on the Caletón Blanco-Baconao river coastal stretch.

In its structure this system does not present the classical composition. We have that within the wetland is the Mangle Prieto (Avicennia germinans) as the main builder. On the coastline and therefore under the direct influence of the waves, there is a mixture of Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and Mangle Prieto that does not exceed 20 meters in width; the first dominates in the first 5 to 8 meters and later does not exceed the state of postures. The rest of the area is pure Mangle Prieto forests, occasionally isolated specimens of Patabán (Laguncularia racemosa) are found; Yana (Conocarpus erecta) is found only exceptionally at the edges of the mangrove.

In the zone influenced by fresh water, there are mangroves with a second stratum of the fern Acrostichum danaefolium or other species such as sedges.

The lagoons may or may not have vegetation, where it exists, a community of Macío (Typha domingensis) predominates. In places where the influx of the tides arrives in the form of groundwater, salt marshes are formed; here the main species is Barrilla (Batis maritima). Where the tide still arrives weakly, it is found mixed with coastal purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum) and Mangle Prieto, in the form of a thicket. In places where salinity is maximum, no vegetation is found.


The flora of these mangroves is relatively poor compared to other terrestrial communities. In the Wetland there are 31 families in which there are 56 genera and 70 species. The most numerous families are Cyperaceae (8), Poaceae (8), Asteraceae (6), Amaranthaceae (5), Boraginaceae (5), Leguminosae (4) and Malvaceae (4). The genera with more species are: Alternanthera, Cyperus and Eleocharis with three species.

Plant Communities

In this mangrove a differentiation in communities is observed, according to the influence of fresh water, waves, tide, water depth, salinity and anthropization. So far 10 phytocenoses have been found:

* Rhizophoro-Avicennietum germinantis Borhidi and Muñiz.

* Avicennietum germinantis ass. n.

* Scirpo olneyi-Avicennietum germinantis ass. n.

* Scirpo olneyi-Typhetum domingensis ass. n.

* Spirodelo polyrhizae-Typhetum domingensis ass. n.

* Acrosticho danaefolium-Avicennietum germinantis ass.n.

* Eleochari mutatae-Avicennietum germinantis ass. n.

* Batidi-Avicennietum germinantis Borhidi and Del Risco.

* Lagunculario-Avicennietum germinantis ass. n.

* Batidi-Prosopidetum juliflorae ass.n.


Studies in relation to the fauna in the San Miguel de Parada protected area have been fundamentally those related to the ornithofauna associated with this wetland (Melián et al. 1994a, Melián et al. 1994b, Melián 1997, Melián et al. 1997) . These studies have allowed us to get to know that the ornithofauna of this wetland is made up of 123 species, belonging to 16 orders and 37 families.

Taking into account the type of permanence in the country, according to Garrido and Kirkconnell (1993), the birds present in San Miguel de Parada are classified as: 35 permanent residents, 25 bimodal permanent residents, 2 spring and summer oceanic residents, 39 residents spring or fall, 5 summer residents, 9 passers-by, 2 newly established permanent residents, and 6 endemic.

When analyzing the birds reported for the San Miguel de Parada Wetland regarding their permanence in Cuba, we found that 55 are birds that can only be found during their migration periods and the remaining, 68 species, live in Cuban territory throughout the year.

Regarding abundance, according to Garrido and Kirkconnell (1993), the birds present in San Miguel de Parada are classified as: 103 common that represent 84% of the total, 19 rare (15%), and one threatened (0.8%), known as Colilargo Gavilán (Accipiter gundlachi), reported as threatened in the IUCN Red List (IUCN 2007).

In the different aquatic environments studied, 60 aquatic species are present, representing 49% of the total and 63 terrestrial, which is equivalent to 51%.

In the entire territory of the Wetland there are 44 species nesting, which means that 36% of the total species in the area reproduce in it. 50% of these 44 species are aquatic and 50% are terrestrial, which indicates that the studied area is important both for the reproduction of aquatic and terrestrial species, these results are demonstrated by the studies carried out by Melian et al. , 1994, which are manifested by different evidences of the birds in the breeding season (courtship, clutches, eggs and chicks).

Population and human settlements

Within the area that includes the Wetland there is no human community; However, the limits of the wildlife refuge are the presence of two settlements which constitute part of the population that makes use of the natural resources that the area has, (the Punta de Sal Community and Caimán Chico).

There are also, at the limits of the area, institutions, industries, infrastructures for social service that influence the functioning of the ecosystem of the Wildlife Refuge, among which are the rail lines, the road that leads to the Guamá municipality, the Parada Dam and the PESCASAN Aquaculture Center among others that are mentioned below:

* Punta de Sal Community

It is a community that is created, based on the housing needs due to the growth of the number of people in the families that already existed there, and due to the migration of other people to the place, there are 32 houses, in a fair and poor state, built of wood and cardboard, a zinc and cardboard roof, and a population of 105 inhabitants. There is no common economic activity in the community, for its residents, most of those who have jobs do so in the city of Santiago, and some residents who work as employees of the National Company for the Protection of Flora and Fauna .

* Cayman Chico Community

It is an emerging community with a population of 80 inhabitants, distributed in 25 homes. The fundamental activity is that concerning large and small livestock. The other part of the population carries out their work functions in the city of Santiago de Cuba.

As public services, they have electricity from the national network and drinking water is received through the Hydraulic network. Education, Health and other services are received outside the community.

Environmental problem

In the surroundings of the area, there are some industries that due to their involvement and possible repercussions on the functioning of the protected area, it is necessary to take into account for the establishment of regulations and environmental recovery actions to be carried out in said area. Some of these institutions are as follows.

* Antonio Maceo Refrigerator: Belonging to the Fishing Company of Santiago-PESCASAN, it has within its fundamental activities, the meat processing plant, the port and the commercial one. The approximate area of ​​the company is 275,000 m2.

* ERASOL Edible Oil Factory: belonging to the Ministry of Light Industry MINAL, the institution is dedicated to refining soybean oil for the national balance sheet and for foreign exchange collection stores.

* Thermoelectric Antonio Maceo Grajales "RENTE", of MINBAS, constitutes one of the most important industries in the territory, performing as a service the production and sale of electric energy, using the waters of the bay as a cooling medium.

* Hermanos Díaz Oil Refinery: of MINBAS, its main activity is oil refining.

Chemical waste dumping

Some wells for the supply of drinking water to the Caimán Chico and Punta de Sal communities are currently contaminated by the presence of oil residues. These wastes are also found in areas of the protected area. The residual must from the Bacardi Rum factory reaches the area and those emitted by the Soya Processor "PdS" remain for a long time, although as has been proposed, the discharges from "PdS" have decreased in quantity and have observe some recovery of the area where waste was previously discharged

The discharges from the “Erasol” Oil Factory continue to be a problem due to the great pollution it generates. At this time, the composition and the proportion in which these residues are spread throughout the area is unknown.

Community uses.

The area, despite its interest and importance, recognized as the largest wetland in Santiago de Cuba, remained for a long time without an administration that took care of its protection and monitoring. That is why the use of resources by people who live near or visit the area did not favor the conservation of said wetland. Among the main resources most used by man in this area, are the mangrove for domestic fuel, the bark of the red mangrove to dye fabrics or skins and the collection of eggs and hunting of birds for food.

Taking into account the characteristics of this wetland, it is considered an important space for the reproduction of migratory birds from the Caribbean that arrive in the province. The possibility of food and shelter that its mangroves and interior lagoons provide to a diverse Ornithofauna, present at different times of the year in the area, has been very significant.

The marine area at this time has a certain exploitation, both by the birds that feed in it, and by the fishermen who extract baits and other resources in the Miradero Bay. However, due to the characteristics and values ​​of the area, there is the possibility of making another use of this marine zone, more appropriate to the management category, a use that is suggested within the proposals for activities for public use and those for research and monitoring.

Economic-social problems.

Taking into account that there is no social infrastructure within the protected area, the economic and social problems that arise are not directly linked to the area; However, the non-existence of direct benefits from the Wildlife Refuge to the communities near it, due to the category of management, may represent a negative impact in terms of the conservation and proper use of the resources that are protected in it.

Through the participation of community members, representatives of some of the institutions close to the area and formal leaders, such as the President of the Popular Power, CDR, some of the causes that have caused an inappropriate exploitation of some of the area's resources were known . Although there is a plan for the supply of liquefied gas to Santiago de Cuba, it does not contemplate these communities in the first stage, so that in the area the deficit of fuel for cooking persists, this factor, which favors extractive activities of firewood, specifically used for this purpose (according to the reference of the inhabitants themselves) the dry mangrove that is within the protected area, causing alterations in the ecosystem.

This lack of direct benefits from the area for the community represents at this time a problem that can affect the support of the inhabitants in protection activities. The Company for the Protection of Flora and Fauna as a primary solution, proposed in the participatory workshops held in the area, has employed more than 8 people from the area and there is the possibility of continuing to employ more people from nearby communities, as the necessary infrastructure is created and created to adequately manage the Wildlife Refuge, so that there is benefit to a part of the population, other than the use and overexploitation of the area's natural resources as a means of subsistence.

  • Extraction of red mangrove bark present in the area

Taking into account that the population of red mangroves in the area is the one with the smallest proportion, the excessive extraction of its bark may constitute a threat to its sustainability and survival. At this time the real impact that this action may have on the mangrove is unknown, but the decrease is appreciated

  • Bird hunting, egg collection and chick capture.

In the breeding season of existing and stationary birds in the area, the community members state that it is common to see people hunting adult birds, capturing young birds and sometimes even the eggs of the nests for food and trade.

  • Fishing inside the cove.

Fishing with a chinchorro for bait takes place within the cove, every four days, by the Punta Gorda Fishing Cooperative (South Coast). This fishing technique constitutes a threat to the reproduction of marine species existing in the cove and which are part of the management objectives of the area.

  • Presence of the Claria (exotic fauna), with a negative influence on other species in the area.

Due to the proximity of a fish breeding center, belonging to PESCASAN, Claria has spread in the lagoons that exist within the area. This can constitute a threat to the trophic chain of other species present in the area.

Although from experiences in other areas of the country where this species was also introduced it is known that it is highly predatory, there is a lack of knowledge in the area of ​​its distribution as well as its real impact on other species present in these.

Alteration of the hydric regime of the area (due to constructions or another element of natural cause) that has interrupted the entry of water through areas that previously existed.

Constructions made close to the area, such as the dam, warehouses, the juvenile center, among others, have caused the diversion of the water inlet to the area and therefore the necessary water regime within the wetland has been altered, an element of great importance for the maintenance of the ecosystem present in the area.

To face these problems, the Company for the Protection of Flora and Fauna has:

* Specialists in Fauna and Flora studies, which makes it possible to face the actions to be developed with a view to the study and management proposals in the area.

* Links and institutional relations with the Eastern Center for Ecosystems and Biodiversity of Santiago de Cuba, which enables comprehensive research and monitoring actions in the area.

The need to strengthen relations with the institutions linked to the management, surveillance and control of the use of resources in the area is evident in order to contribute to the solution of the problems that involve actions of this type, (Ranger Corps, Office Fisheries Inspection, Office of Environmental Regulation, among others). To achieve this, actions that contribute to solving this need are proposed in the programmatic.


A detailed analysis of the availability of the resources in relation to the use offered to them within the Wetland, showed that more than 42% of the uses (hunting, logging, landfill, jetty, grazing, among others), are totally harmful , the most damaging being those produced by: dumping of polluting chemical residues by nearby industries, dumping of rubble, illegal use of forest resources and aquatic fauna, extraction of soil in neighboring areas, alteration of the water regime of the area due to constructions or other elements of natural cause, alteration of the water quality of the Cobre river and the Miradero cove (Graph-1). Which lead in the long term to the loss of landscape values ​​and a decrease in biodiversity associated with the mangrove swamp.

Graph 1. Availability Use / Resource

General impacts are those produced by soil contamination (from which at least ten more impacts are derived) caused by the alteration of the physicochemical properties of the soil, which in many cases lead to soil erosion or salinity changes. Other impacts produced are: defoliation, emergence of secondary mangroves, attack by phytophages, modification of forest structures, reduction of the usable area for mangroves, habitat fragmentation, variation in the floristic composition of the mangrove, soil compaction.

The same analysis, but this time aimed at the various sectors, showed the gallery-refinery forest (93.75%) as the most damaged, followed by the oil and soybean factories (69.75%), being in all cases (as main generating action): The dumping of polluting residuals, the actions of human settlements and illegal logging.

Among the institutions with the greatest generation of impacts within the oil and soy manufacturing sector, there were: the Oil and soy factories with 18 (90%) and 17 (85%) interactions respectively, and the Caimán Chico community with 12 ( 60%). In the case of the old garbage dump sector of the city, the Parada Community with 13 (68.42%) turned out to be the maximum generator.

Table 1. Total low, medium and high level of significance impacts for each sector.

An analysis of the different degrees of significance of the impacts in the sectors, showed in all cases a marked increase in negative impacts (98, 38%), preferably in the most damaging to the ecosystem (48.36%), which corroborates so far exposed.


The results presented above demonstrate the imminent need to establish a specific regulation for the discharge of all types of waste in the mangrove forest, as well as to promote more efficient measures to control the resources available within the area. We must still improve our detection and study techniques, either by carrying out both the quality of the water and the runoff from the Cobre River, since this is the main water supply of the mangrove, and by carrying out future work aimed at study of the spatial arrangement of pollution in mangrove areas.

* Franklyn Cala-Riquelme, Gerardo G. Hechavarria, Yury Debros Trutie & Albert Deler-Hernández Conservation Department, Emp. Flora and Fauna (ENPFF), Santiago de Cuba.

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