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    Populations of threatened cacti are planned to be recovered

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    Prevén recuperar poblaciones de cactácea amenazada

    A joint project between the Coastal Ecosystems Research Centers (CIEC) and Bioplants, in the province of Ciego de Ávila, plans to recover the Consolea millspaughii, a species of cacti identified since 1910 in Paredón Grande Cay (in the center-north of Cuba) and critically endangered.

    The Master in Biological Sciences Raúl Gómez Fernández, assistant researcher at the CIEC, stressed that in vitro reproduction must be completed by 2023, at a rate that allows the reintroduction of this plant to be accelerated, whose populations are reduced due to anthropogenic and environmental factors.

    The conservation of this cactus in the northern cays of Ciego de Ávila contemplates the planting in gardens of hotel, non-hotel and tourism support facilities, an action that also favors the displacement of exotic plants, whose development is complex in coastal ecosystems, he said.

    In Cuba, the largest congregations of this species are found on the aforementioned islet and were recorded during an expedition carried out in 1910, he specified. He explained that they suffered damages because of the investment processes for the development of tourism and the onslaught of meteorological phenomena, fundamentally Hurricane Irma, a powerful and catastrophic tropical cyclone that occurred in 2017. Based on an investigation carried out by the CIEC in the cays Coco and Paredón Grande, after the passage of this extreme hydro-meteorological event, the need to safeguard the Consolea millspaughii was determined, he said.

    The joint initiative could be extended to contribute to the conservation of other species, so that the values ​​of the environment are preserved and Cuba's commitments to the care and protection of the environment are honored, he stressed.

    When referring to the characteristics of the Consolea millspaughii, Gómez Fernández highlighted that it can grow up to one and a half meters; they reproduce and form colonies associated with thickets located in places where there are few substrates, with a large number of stones and dogtooth. They resist these adverse environmental conditions due to their ability to adapt and retain water to create reserves that allow them to stay alive throughout the year and benefit other plants and animals associated with them, confirming their ecological value.

    According to a CIEC report, it is a branched shrub at the top, with a cylindrical stem, up to seven centimeters (cm) in diameter and 60 in height; meanwhile, its narrowly oblong and compressed branches can reach 10.

    It has obliquely lanceolate segments, areoles with short brown glochids, the spines can reach up to 15 cm and are numerous on the trunk, the flowers are red with fleshy sepals, mucronulate petals and the obovoid fruit of only two, he added. Regarding to the CIEC document, an entity attached to the Environment Agency, 40 percent of Cuban native cacti are Critically Endangered and three species of Consolea join the list of Critically Endangered, while another is endangered.

    A fundamental axis for plant conservation is the effective preservation of species in their natural habitat, especially those that are under some degree of threat.