The Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve is located at the eastern part of Cuba's Guaniguanico mountain range. It protects over 100 square miles of tropical forests with evergreen and semi-deciduous environments. It was also the site of the first major coffee plantation in the New World.
The Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve is located at the eastern part of Cuba's Guaniguanico mountain range, between Pinar del Rio and Havana’s provinces (Artemisa and Mayabeque). Both north and south coasts can be seen from this area. It protects a total area of 26,686 ha (65,942 acres) of tropical forests with evergreen and semi-deciduous environments.
This reserve shows a complex geological structure, with a great diversity of rocks that produce different and special soils, which in part, determine flora endemism in its landscape. One can find the little orchid Bletia purpurea, considered a symbol of this reserve.
Some parts of the range have exposures of Serpentine rock, and here, instead of forest, there is grassland and thorny xeromorphic thickets and shrublands. Still with special features intact, regenerating natural systems, and ecological field station, Sierra del Rosario has been cleared of its natural forest cover, but we still find semidecidous forests, 'cuabales', hummocks 'mogotes' and secondary forest regeneration species, as the royal palm tree, and 'yagruma'.
More than 5,500 (2002) people live in the biosphere reserve, mainly working in handicrafts, agriculture, cattle raising and reforestation. 62 national and 20 foreign scientists (1998) are involved in research and monitoring at the Institute of Ecology and Systematic.
They have improved tropical reforestation and agriculture, local ecotechnology by developing bio fertilizers containing different mixtures of mycorrhizae. They also promote the use of non-conventional energy. There is also a strong public environmental education focus and specialized ecotourism. A very fine eco-hotel has been built in the biosphere reserve, which blends in to a hillside.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the biosphere reserve is its link with coffee. It was the site of the first major plantation in the New World, and there are still some few places in the biosphere reserve where small self-contained farmlets exist, and shade coffee is part of the range of items grown. There is a substantial coffee drying area at Buenavista, where the techniques and machinery from the 19th century are still remarkably well preserved.
Twinned with Mexico’s Sierra del Manantlán Biosphere Reserve, the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve shares analogous environmental conditions and resource management issues as well.