The Red List project in times of Covid-19

Not even when the world seems to be forced to stop, the team of Planta! quits working. These are times of teleworking, and our team knows it. Protecting the singular Cuban flora must go through the pandemic. Editing the Cuban Red List of threatened species is our top priority today.


Fecha: 11/08/2020


Proyecto: The Red list of Cuban trees.


These are challenging times. We face the need for social distancing and isolation to control the virus. But even though this is the norm for some businesses and restaurants, those in charge of protecting threatened plant species cannot stop.


This unusual situation arrives in the middle of the Cuban flora’s conservation assessment, something we committed to do to follow the Agreement of Biological Diversity and the cooperation with the Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature IUCN). In this assessment, the Group of Cuban Plant Specialists (GPEC in Spanish) decided that working online will be our way to continue with this project. We created a group in WhatsApp to exchange experiences and support each other. This task, however, it is not a simple one. Some of our members are using this app for the very first time.

Rosalina Berazaín, in 1977, one of the most Cuban acknowledged botanists. She knows the field like the palm of her hand.

The story of she who never stops

Rosalina Berazaín, the prof Rosi like we all call her, has studied the Cuban flora for over 50 years. At 74, she has recovered all Cuba, and her studies about Cuban plant vegetation are a must for any Cuban botanist. Today, she must stay home, but even then, she keeps working. We are all together in this mission of assessing threatened Cuban plants.

Her vast knowledge of our plants allows her to complete this task like no other. However, using technology to work remotely is her biggest challenge. Here is where I come in. My mission is to assist her daily by phone or WhatsApp with any issue she might encounter. She sent me the information to create the species’ distribution map, and together we assign a threat category for the species. Her experience and my technical abilities are a perfect match. We are both aware of the importance of what we are doing.

The prof Rosi works from home on the Red List project.

All for one

Lisbet has been working with plants since her graduation. Now she is a mom, and she alternates work with caring for her baby. She is texting us regularly, even though she does most of her work late at night while her baby sleeps. Her knowledge is outstanding. Despite being so young, she has lots of experience when assessing a species. She is an excellent advisor for beginners like me.

Lisbet is Valentina's mom and works restlessly in the Red List project.

There is also Ramona, who, like Rosi, is an eminent Cuban botanist. She discovered WhatsApp for the first time. Now and then, she tells us stories of when she used to write a letter to her colleagues across the Island; she can communicate with them so quickly now. She is always eager to share her knowledge, and she is like a botanical encyclopedia.

We consult Ramona several times every day; there is so much to learn from her. The geographical location of specific Cuban sites, their conservation status, their inclusion or not in a protected area, the abundance of a species, known taxonomical changes, or even anecdotes make every day an invaluable botanic workshop.

Diana is one of the Red List project coordinators and dedicates most of her time to proofread and edit the assessments completed by the experts.

Diana Rodríguez is one of the coordinators of this task. She prepares the texts that will be later reviewed by international experts. She works on the Red List mostly at night, and during the day, she volunteers in a neighborhood nursery to support the production of vegetables for the community. Her passion for Nature and agroecology strengthen her in these difficult times.

Eldis writes to us from one of the areas most impacted by the pandemic. His neighborhood, el Cotorro, has been in lockdown almost since the beginning. He has become like a headquarters for the assessment project, and, with WhatsApp on his phone, he is one of the most active members of the team, always ready to collaborate.

Parallel to the fight of healthcare providers to control the pandemic, each of us is also working towards this planet’s environmental future. Protecting Nature is not a postponable action. From the safety of our homes, our team moves forward to preserve the incredible Cuban flora.

Eldis lives in one of the areas most impacted by the pandemic; his house has become a Red List headquarters.

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