Research Group Cuba and the Caribbean
Comprehensive research on the plant diversity of the Caribbean at the Berlin Botanic Garden has started more than a century ago with the work of Ignatz Urban preparing the Symbolae Antillanae – Fundamenta Florae Indiae Occidentalis (Grundlage einer Flora Westindiens). Today, the production of a modern Flora de Cuba is a main project in the collaborative efforts between Cuban and German botanists and publishes new detailed treatments of several hundred species every year (Koeltz Scientific Books).
Goals of our activities are to strengthen the collaboration with Cuba and with other countries at the institutional and individual scientist’s level and to promote the assessment and conservation of plant diversity in the Caribbean. This is of global relevance since more than half of the region’s plant species are endemic and often live in vulnerable ecosystems. In this context we have recently extended our collaborative work to the Dominican Republic. Together with a network of partners in El Salvador, Mexico, and Colombia we complement floristic work by question-oriented research on the origin and evolution of the Caribbean flora. The focus is on selected lineages across flowering plants and ferns that show high levels of endemism and which are studied in the field, the herbarium and the lab using molecular methods. Results are not only delivered to stakeholders to support nature conservation but are also illustrated in various exhibitions for the general public in the Botanic Gardens in Berlin, Havana and Santo Domingo.