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Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Waterbird Assemblages in Cuba’s South Coast Wetlands: Conservation Implications

  • Susana AguilarEmail author
  • Lilian Tonelli Manica
  • Martín Acosta
  • Rodolfo Castro
  • Zaimiuri Hernández
  • Alieny González
  • Manuel López
  • Lourdes Mugica
Wetlands Conservation


Cuba is the largest Caribbean island, supporting the most extensive wetlands in the region. Of the ~370 bird species in this country, approximately 40% are wetland-dependent and most are migratory. Knowledge of bird use of Cuba’s wetlands is critical for regional conservation. This study characterized waterbird assemblages in Cuban south coastal wetlands, reports spatio-temporal variations in waterbird diversity and suggests conservation strategies. We conducted 543 surveys across six wetlands (2011–2013). We recorded 110 species. Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) and Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) were the dominant species. The site with the highest richness and waterbird abundance was Humedal Sur de Los Palacios. Differences in waterbird composition were identified among sites and seasons but not among years. No differences were found in spatial or temporal variability in abundance among sites, seasons or years. Assemblage composition was not spatially dependent on the location of wetlands. Twelve species were at abundance levels exceeding 1% of their estimated global population. This study highlights the global importance of the Cuban south coast to waterbird conservation, particularly during fall migration and the uniqueness of Humedal Sur de Los Palacios. We encourage creation of new Ramsar sites, an Important Bird Area and a new protected area.


Diversity Community structure Migration Multivariate analysis Seasonal variation Waterbird composition 



We thank the National Center of Protected Areas (CNAP) (Ministry of Technology and Environmental of Cuba) and the GEF (Global Environment Facility) project: Application of a Regional Approach to the Management of Marine and Coastal Protected Areas in Cuba’s Southern Archipelagos (ID 3607/2009–2014) for support of this study. We also gratefully acknowledge O. Labrada, D. Navarro, L. Inguanzo and A. Rodríguez for assistance with fieldwork and I. Galarda and A. Padial for statistical advice. J. Wheeler assisted with the English revision of this manuscript. Finally, S. Aguilar is grateful to CNPq (Brazilian National Council Scientifc and Technological Development) for granting her a PhD. Scholarship.

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Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate Program in Zoology, Department of ZoologyFederal University of ParanáCuritibaBrazil
  2. 2.Faculty of BiologyUniversity of HavanaLa HabanaCuba
  3. 3.National Institute of Agricultural SciencesPinar del RíoCuba
  4. 4.Cayos de San Felipe National ParkPinar del RíoCuba
  5. 5.Monte Cabaniguán Faunal RefugeLas TunasCuba

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