World Wetlands Day 2004 -- Mexico


Mexico adds 34 four new sites to the Ramsar List

On World Wetlands Day 2004, the Government of Mexico designated 34 new Wetlands of International Importance, a record for the greatest number of Ramsar Sites designated on the same day (and in addition to a further 10 Ramsar Sites designated by Mexico in November 2003). A very large array of wetland types and values are represented in the new designations, from high altitude lakes to inland lake systems to turtle beaches and coral reefs, totaling over three million hectares (30,000 km2). Mexico now has 51 Ramsar Sites covering a surface area of 5,101,433 hectares.

The designation ceremonies took place at the inauguration of the 6th Workshop on Management and Conservation of Wetlands in Mexico (6o Taller sobre Manejo y Conservación de Humedales en México) at the Universidad de Guadalajara, Zapopan, Jalisco, attended by Francisco Ramírez Acuña, the Governor of Jalisco state; Alberto Cárdenas-Jiménez, Ministro de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México; Peter Bridgewater, the Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention; Duane Shroufe, president of the North American Wetlands Conservation Council; Steve Williams, Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service; Ernesto Enkerlin, Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP); and Georgita Ruíz, Directora General de Vida Silvestre-Semarnat.

Here are brief descriptions of the new sites prepared by Ramsar's Iván Dario Valencia and Sebastià Semene Guitart.

Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Laguna de Términos. 02/02/04; Campeche; 705,016 ha; 18°37'N 091°41'W. Wildlife Reserve. The largest coastal lagoon on the Mexican shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Mangrove forests of approximately 127,000 ha are a major feature and produce as much as 716,000 tons of dead leaves every year. The coastal waters are enriched with nutrients by upwelling and turbulence, while the lagoon receives freshwater from rivers and swamps. Other vegetation types are evergreen tropical forest, thorny forest, palmetto (Sabal Mexicana) forest, reedbeds of cattail (Typha latifolia) and Jointed Flatsedge (Cyperus articulatum), and patches of Bent Alligator Flag Thalia geniculata. Flagship animals of the site include the Jabiru Jabiru mycteria, the Horseshoe Crab Limulus polyphemus and endemic amphibians Rana brownorum, Bolitoglossa yucatana; and reptiles Anolis ustus, A. cozumelae, A. quercorum, amongst others. Ciudad del Carmen, with a population of almost 100,000, is an important industrial port located on the barrier island of the lagoon. A variety of fishing, agricultural and livestock raising activities are done in the site, all of which are causing problems of sedimentation, pollution, deforestation and reduction of stocks. Further conflicts have arisen with the oil pipes that traverse the area. Ramsar site no. 1356.

Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Yum Balam. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 154,052 ha; 21º28'N 087º19'W. Wildlife Sanctuary. A coastal lagoon and a mosaique of low and medium forests on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, home to a rich fauna., including the jaguar, Baird's Tapir Tapirus bairdii, Crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus and C. moreletii), sea turtles, American Manatees Trichechus manatus, Spiny Lobsters Panulirus argus, and the near -threatened Ocellated Turkey Agriocharis ocellata. Besides the well preserved forests, noteworthy vegetation communities are those of Everglades palms (Acoelorreaphe wrightii), mangroves and petenes. Fishing is the main income source for locals yet the main problem for the area as well, as fishing intensity has increased and stocks diminished. Tourism, forestry, cattle ranching and agriculture are of low intensity today, yet their impact could grow in the next years. Ramsar site no. 1360.

Áreas de Protección de Flora y Fauna de Nahá y Metzabok. 02/02/04; Chiapas; 7,216 ha; 17º03'N 091º36'W. Natural Protected Area. Part of the Selva Lacandona region, considered the most important for biodiversity in North America, as the physiographic conditions and humidity enhance the development of ecosystems ranging from pine tree forests and marshes to tall everlasting forests and produce a high number of animal and vegetal species per surface unit. Some 40,000 species of fauna and flora live in these habitats - in other words, an area of only 0.4% of the country's surface contains 48% of the birds species, 33% of bats, 11% of the reptiles and 25% of the mammals of Mexico. The importance of the Selva Lacandona region for biodiversity is highlighted by the presence of 5 other protected areas in the surroundings, though the main threats (water pollution from pesticides, habitat fragmentation, fire risk, and land invasion due to a poor productivity of the surrounding cultivated lands) are still threatening this area. Ramsar site no. 1331.

Bala'an K'aax. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 131,610 ha; 19º19'N 089º03'W. Reserva Estatal. Flooded low everlasting forests, with an endemic vegetation type from the Yucatán peninsula. They are a shelter for the great majority of animal species in the region, enhanced by the site's inaccessibility. The importance of the area's vegetation lies in the great quantity of endemic species, but also because it supplies water for the region and other, more coastal wetlands. Because of the karstic nature of the ground, a complex subterranean system is present, including an associated unique and unknown biodiversity. The area contains around 601 vertebrate species, of which 27% are threatened, under special protection or endangered according to international or national lists. Changes in land property and planning are the main threat to this area. Ramsar site no. 1332.

Ciénegas de Lerma. 02/02/04; Estado de México; 3,023 ha; 19º14'N 099º30'W. The biggest remnant wetlands in central Mexico, and especially in the Mexico and Toluca valleys, spreading over more than 3,000 ha and three lakes (lagunas) which are what remains from the 27,000 ha wetland present at the end of the 19th century. They contain several types of habitats, among which are deep water areas (more than 5m), floating and submerged vegetation areas, and areas of riparian vegetation. There is a great diversity of aquatic fauna and flora, including dozens of endemic and threatened species. The site is also important for migratory species as it is one of the biggest wetland areas they find during their journey. The Ciénegas also supply some aquatic plants used for local art craft, medicine and cooking. The different water holes are also sacred places for local people, though the lack of water has prevented them from practicing their ritual in recent years. The restitution of the water flows in the central parts of Mexico is, nowadays, the main issue for conserving these areas. Ramsar site no. 1335.

Isla San Pedro Mártir. 02/02/04; Sonora; 30,165 ha; 28°23'N 112°19'W. Biosphere Reserve. A small island of 127 ha off the coast of Sonora, regarded as one of the best preserved islands in the Gulf of California. The island is a favourite site for marine birds, as it hosts very large colonies of Blue-footed Boobies Sula nebouxii, Brown Boobies Sula leucogaster, Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis and Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus. Two endemic lizards also inhabit the islands, Uta palmeri and Cnemidophorus martyris, and there is a colony of ca.2,500 California Sea Lions Zalophus californianus. The island is bordered by trenches more than 900 metres deep, where the waters of the northern and southern parts of the Gulf meet and generate an upwell. Cliffs and steep slopes dominate the island, which has very little vegetation apart from a small forest of Pachycereus pringlei and seasonal meadows of Wild Poppy Sphaeralcea hainesii. Its large guano deposits were exploited until 1978, when the island was declared a protected area. Presently there are only temporary fishing camps on the island, and ecotourism is still a minor activity. Ramsar site no. 1359.

La Mancha y El Llano. 02/02/04; Veracruz; 1,414 ha; 19°36'N 096°23'W. Two coastal lagoons in the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by mangroves and two humid dune slacks. The latter are shallow freshwater lakes supplied by groundwater and surrounded with deciduous seasonally flooded forest of Crysobalanus icaco and Enterolobium cyclocarpum and communities of Cyperus articulatus and Phyla nodiflora. These are threatened and unique ecosystems in the whole coast of Veracruz where coastal dunes can reach 80 m in height but are being filled in for urban growth. Mangroves host populations of Belize Crocodiles Crocodylus moreletii, Wood Stork Mycteria americana and Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens. Oysters, clams and shrimp are fished regularly. The lagoons are being silted due to mangrove and upper basin deforestation, and impacts of infrastructure such as oil pipelines, road and railway building present threats. The Instituto de Ecología A.C. is located on the site, maintaining ongoing research activities and elaborating a community management plan. Ramsar site no. 1336.

Laguna de Chichankanab. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 1,999 ha; 19º52'N, 088º46'W. A complex of inland freshwater lakes following a fault line. Seasonally flooded grasslands dominated by Jamaica Sawgrass Cladium jamaicense, partially evergreen forests of Alseis yucatensis, Clusia salvini, and others, plus and a rare enclave of Rhizophora mangle mangrove surround the lakes. Five endemic and threatened fish ("cachorritos") are known only in this location: Cyprinodon beltrani, C. labiosus, C. maya, C. simus and C. verecundus. The site has been proposed as a nationally protected area. Ramsar site no. 1364.

Laguna de Metztitlán. 02/02/04; Hidalgo; 2,937 ha; 20º41'N 098º52'W. Part of Biosphere Reserve. A natural dam formed when a limestone landslide blocked the course of the Venados River. It has an average depth of 9 to 10 m, covering 700 ha, yet it may flood 5,000 ha under exceptional conditions. Vegetation types present include montane shrubs, oak-pine forest, deciduous tropical forest, "crasicaule" shrub, desert scrub, Juniperus forest and aquatic vegetation. The lake is a stopover and wintering ground for migratory birds. It feeds aquifers that are tapped for agriculture and which feed the Almolón River springs downstream. The scarce native fish life prompted the introduction of tilapias, carps and catfish, which are harvested and destined forlocal markets. Silting due to erosion in the hillsides and water pollution are generating problems of eutrophication. The use of small-eyed fishing nets also poses problems for sustaining fish stocks. A management plan is in place for the Biosphere Reserve. Ramsar site no. 1337.

Laguna de Sayula. 02/02/04; Jalisco; 16,800 ha; 20°02'N 103°32'W. Located in the Zacoalco-Sayula Valley, between the two big mountains (sierras) of Mexico (Tapalpa and Tigre), the Laguna de Sayula is a continental salt marsh sheltering 132 species of birds, 40 mammals and 14 amphibians and reptiles. Five of the 56 species of waterfowl are considered globally threatened, and the site supports about 40,000 individuals of some of these. The area is also important for its cultural and historical value, and 170 points have been identified as important for archeological values. The Laguna is the main area for the production and export of the Pitahaya de Queretaro cactus but also an important production area for nuts and coffee. Changes in land use and management and the alteration of the water flows supplying the Laguna are the main threats. The area is considered Área Prioritária para la Conservación de la Región II (South Mexico) and also site of interest for the conservation of migratory waterfowl species. Ramsar site no. 1338. [Photo: Miguel Magaña]

Laguna de Yuriria. 02/02/04; Guanajuato; 15,020 ha; 25°13'N 101°08'W. National Protected Area. An artificial freshwater lake built as a consequence of the deviation of the Lerma River through a canal built in 1548, considered to be the first hydraulic engineering construction of colonial America. It is one of the most important freshwater lakes in Mexico, located in a semi-arid zone at 1740m and supporting important populations of migratory birds, including Buteo jamaisensis (Red-tailed hawk), Falco peregrinus (Peregrine falcon), Myadestes townsendi (Townsend's solitaire), Anas discors (Blue-winged teal), Anas americana (American wigeon), Icterus wagleri (Black-vented oriole), Icterus cucullatus (Hooded oriole), Anas diazi, and Geothlypies speciosa. Water supply is a key role played by this lake and it has an important effect in the microclimate of the area. Agricultural expansion and urban development are the main threats to the site's character. The management and restoration plans are being drafted by the National Institute of Ecology (INE) to undertake concrete actions to achieve the sustainable management of the Yuruiria Basin. Ramsar site no. 1361.

Laguna Madre. 02/02/04; Tamaulipas; 307,894 ha; 24°44'N 97°35'W. The largest water body in the country, on the Gulf of Mexico near the Texas border, it is a coastal lagoon system bordered by a sand barrier 223km long. Salinity varies greatly depending on rainfall. The site is of critical importance to resident and migratory waterbirds, especially shorebirds such as Pluvialis squatarola, Calidris alba, Calidris minutilla and the endangered Piping Plover Charadrius melodus. 26 waterfowl species are found on the lake, where concentrations of over 100,000 individuals of Redheads Aythya americana and Northern Pintail Anas acuta stand out. Desert scrub of mesquite Prosopis glandulosa, Blackbrush Acacia rigidula, Castela tortuosa, amongst others, is the most representative terrestrial vegetation. Seagrass beds of Halodule wrightii and others cover large areas. Fishing is by far the most important human activity on the site, yet the over-exploitation of resources has diminished stocks. The Intracoastal Waterway project from Tampico to Brownsville would seriously alter the site's character. The area is regarded as the first priority wetland for migratory birds in Mexico by Ducks Unlimited, which contributed towards the site designation. Ramsar site no. 1362.

Laguna Ojo de Liebre. 02/02/04; Baja California Sur; 36,600 ha; 27°45'N 114°05'W. Reserva de la Biosfera, World Heritage Natural Site. A hypersaline coastal lagoon, one of the main refuges for grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus) where they meet for pairing, breeding and raising their young. It also gives shelter to a wide variety of birds along the river and in the islands in the lagoon - a total of 94 species have been counted between 1995 and 1996. The area contains a lagoon, coastal and marine ecosystems as well as tidal channels and intertidal areas; the surroundings also contain unstable dunes, saltpeter areas, halophilous bushes and marshes. Waste disposal, a consequence of the fishing activities, and the over-exploitation of the area for fishing are the main threats. The lagoon has been declared a sheltered area for whales since 1972. Ramsar site no. 1339.

Laguna Playa Colorada-Santa María La Reforma. 02/02/04; Sinaloa; 53,140 ha; 24°44'N 112°11'W. The site consists of three bays with wide mouths to the sea featuring 153 islands, 25 marshes, and 18,700 ha of mangroves. The endangered Black-vented Shearwater Puffinus opisthomelas, the Brant Branta bernicla and numerous waterfowl species inhabit the site. The intertidal flats host very large numbers of shorebirds, with past counts reaching over 300,000 individuals - thus the site is listed as an international site on the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network. Economically important fish species are the mullets (Mugil cephalus and M. curema), Bullseye Puffer Sphoeroides annulatus, Mojarra Diapterus peruvianus, Spanish Mackerel Scomberomorus sierra, snappers Lutjanus spp., and snooks Centropomus spp. In terms of fish catch, it is one of the most significant areas on the Pacific coast of Mexico; the area has now over 2,000 small fishing boats navigating its waters. There are over 10,000 ha of shrimp farms, which have brought many environmental impacts, such as silting, pollution with pesticides, spread of viruses from farmed to wild populations, drying up of nearly 10% of the mangroves and disruption of the hydrological flows. Conservation International and the Universidad Autónoma de Sinaloa are pushing forward a community management initiative of the coastal wetlands and raising environmental awareness among locals. Ramsar site no. 1340.

Laguna San Ignacio. 02/02/04; Baja California Sur; 17,500 ha; 26°45'N 113°07'W. Part of Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. On the very arid western side of the Baja California peninsula, this coastal brackish lagoon with large intertidal flats is an important nesting site for the Grey Whale Eschrichtius robustus, reaching 300-400 individuals each winter. Other marine mammals are resident: Elephant Seals Mirounga angustirostris and California Sea Lions Zalophus californianus. In addition, San Ignacio is one of the main wintering areas for the Black Brant Branta bernicla nigricans, contains the northernmost mangrove forests in the continent, and is an important nursery ground for fish. The site is part of "El Vizcaíno" World Heritage Site, which receives a significant number of tourists for whale-watching, adventure and ecotourism in general. Overfishing and inadequate waste disposal are regarded as the main problems. A management plan is in place since 2000. Ramsar site no. 1341.

Manglares y humedales de la Laguna de Sontecomapan. 02/02/04; Veracruz; 8,921 ha; 18º54'N, 95º31'W. Part of a Biosphere Reserve. A coastal lagoon featuring an important mangrove forest on the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a low seasonally flooded forest, reedbeds and coastal dunes. The site is an important stopover site for migratory birds using the coastal route from North to Central and South America, and it is part of the Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve. Nationally threatened species inhabit the site, such as the howling monkey Alouatta palliata, otter Lutra longicaudis, royal duck Cairina moschata, and Unicolored Rail Amaurolimnas concolor. The mangroves are vital spawning and nursery grounds for marine fish, while the freshwater wetlands harbor endemic species such as Atherinella ammophila, Priapella olmecae and Cychlasoma fenestratum. Fishing in the lagoon is an important economic activity, as well as cattle ranching and small-scale agriculture. Though deforestation has diminished since the site was declared a protected area, it remains the main problem of the reserve. The paving of a road poses problems if tourism increases in an unregulated manner. A management plan is being drafted for the Biosphere Reserve. Ramsar site no. 1342.

Parque Nacional Arrecife de Puerto Morelos. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 9,066 ha; 20º54'N 86º50'W. National Park. Part of the great Mesoamerican reef, known as the second biggest coral reef in the world. It contains rich biological communities among the coral formations and a wide reef lagoon with sea grasses fields. All these ecosystems are well conserved and have great ecological, economic, recreational, commercial, historical, educative and aesthetic values as well as an important interest for scientific research. From the human point of view, the conservation of the coral reef is vital for the 5,000 inhabitants of Puerto Morelos, who live by fishing, tourism income and scientific activities, the future of which depend on the health of the ecosystem. The terrestrial part of the designated site is also important because of the presence of some mangrove area and some turtle breeding beaches. Mangroves are today the most threatened ecosystem in this area. Gathering of information for designation of the site was supported by the Ramsar Wetlands for the Future Initiative. Ramsar site no. 1343.

Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto. 02/02/04; Baja California Sur; 206,581 ha; 25°49'N 111°08'W. National Park. The Coronados, Danzante, Montserrat, Catalana and del Carmen islands form this archipelago off the eastern shores of Baja California. The diversity of marine mammals in the islands is higher than anywhere else in Mexico, with frequent sightings of Blue Whales Balaenoptera musculus, Fin Whales B. physalus, Humpbacked Whales Megaptera noveangliae; as well as Orcas and dolphins, amongst others. Spondylus calcifer, Pinctada mazatlanctica and the Widemouth Rocksnail Purpura patula are protected mussel species found in the park, while the Jumbo Squid Dosidicus gigas comes to lay its eggs in its waters. Endemic species or subspecies of mammals and reptiles in the different islands are also to be highlighted. The islands have arid climate, rocky slopes and desert vegetation, including seven endemic species, plus small inlets with mangrove forests. Seaweeds (Sargassum spp.) are found to 5m depth, while Amphiroa spp. and others reach 20 to 30m depth. Fishing is the main economic activity, and the breach of fishing laws and sustainable practices the main problem. Tourism is also important - visitors not only enjoy the natural landscape but also historical ruins of missions and an ancient whale grease processing plant. A management plan has been approved. Ramsar site no. 1358.

Parque Nacional Cañón del Sumidero. 02/02/04; Chiapas; 21,789 ha. 16°44'N 093°07'W. National Park. The Grijalva River cuts a canyon landscape of chalk and basalt rockwalls up to 1000 meters in height, partially flooded by the Chicoasén Dam. Threatened species like the Great Curassow Crax rubra, the Spider Monkey Ateles geoffroyi, the American Crocodile Crocodylus acutus and the ocelot Leopardus wiedii find refuge in the park. Vegetation types range from deciduous forest to oak-pine forest, crasicaule (plants growing on the canyon walls), grasslands and agricultural areas. The canyon is the symbol in the coat of arms of Chiapas, whose capital, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, is close to the south border of the park. Besides power generation, the main human activities in the park are coffee planting at low scale. Rapid population growth is posing threats to the park as more areas are destined to agriculture and grazing in steep zones subject to wind erosion and soil loss. Nearly 300,000 tourists visit the site every year, and sport activities such as rappeling, mountain biking, kayaking and swimming are done regularly. A management plan is being reviewed for implementation. Ramsar site no. 1344.

Parque Nacional Islas Marietas. 02/02/04; Nayarit; 1,357 ha; 20º42'N 105º34'W. Reserva de Biosfera. Lying off the coast of Nayarit, in Bahía de Banderas, the archipelago consists of two small islands and two islets of volcanic origin. The wind, sun, rain and waves have transformed the substrate, creating various settings that produce an enormous biodiversity. The Islas Marietas are home to a large variety of resident and migratory seabirds, including brown boobies (Sula leucogaster) commonly known as motmots, seagulls and pelicans. The archipelago is also important for the breeding of some marine species like the Humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae) and the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea). The main threat to the site is the "Escalera Náutica del Golfo de California" project which would imply the building of marinas and other associated infrastructures (hotels, airports, etc.), as well as the increase of the number of boats and visitors sailing around or coming to the islands. The archipelago was recently declared a Special Biosphere Reserve and a National Park. Ramsar site no. 1345.

Parque Nacional Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano. 02/02/04; Veracruz; 52,238 ha; 19°08'N 096°00'W. National Park. Just offshore the city of Veracruz, this National Park in the Gulf of Mexico comprises 23 coral reefs in two distinct areas, rising from depths of around 40m. The reef is very rich in fauna and a favorite diving destination, boasting 84 different coral species, 339 mollusks, 47 sponges and 140 crustaceans. There are large seagrass beds, and pioneer coastal dune vegetation, coconut palms and mangroves are present in the emerged keys, as well as the Florida Cherry palm Pseudophoenix sargentii. Three main rivers have outlets in the vicinity, La Antigua, Jamapa-Atoyac, and Papaloapan, jointly discharging significant amounts of freshwater and sediments in the area, which pose a problem of turbidity. Additionally, water pollution comes from sewage and industrial waters from Veracruz and large vessels navigating close to the reefs. Overfishing is also affecting populations of lobsters, octopi and other species. In spite of these pressures, the recovery rate of the reef is greater than that of others in the Gulf of Mexico. The Veracruz Aquarium carries out monitoring of turtle nesting in the keys and a management plan is being drafted for the site. Ramsar site no. 1346.

Playa Tortuguera Cahuitán. 02/02/04; Oaxaca. 65 ha; 16°18'N 098°30'W. An important nesting beach for three species of endangered marine turtles in the Pacific Ocean: Leatherback Dermochelys coriacea, nesting from October to March; Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea, nesting year-round; and the Green Turtle Chelonia mydas, nesting from October to January. The beach is a highly dynamic system with large tidal surges, which can form sand walls of up to 2 metres high. Adjacent areas have been severely deforested, but extensions of Red Mangrove Rhizophora mangle, Enterolobiun cyclocarpum and Roseodendron donellsmithi remain, used locally for house building and woodwork. Leatherback turtles have been intensely surveyed since 1996, protecting nestlings and releasing newborns to the sea. However, there is an alarming diminishing trend of nestlings, attributed to nest looting by locals and the accidental capture of females by fishing lines in South America. Artificial illumination, waste disposal and the prospects of tourism development are also reported as threats for the turtles. There are future plans for designating this beach as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Ramsar site no. 1347

Playa Tortuguera Chenkán. 02/02/04; Campeche; 100 ha; 19°09'N 091°01'W. An important nesting site for the endangered Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata and the Green Turtle Chelonia mydas. Coastal dune communities feature the Seagrape Coccoloba uvifer, Largeleaf Geigertree Cordia sebestana, Ipomea pescaprea and Jaquinia flamma. A stretch of mangrove forest is found behind the beach, as well as deciduous forest. Lylisoma bahamensis, Piscidia piscipula, Bursera simaruba and Croton flavens are the more common species of trees. Oil and natural gas exploration in the Campeche Sound have caused some water pollution, and there are concerns for the risks for turtles. Northerly winds, tropical depressions and hurricanes have made the beach retreat in width, while coconut palms are suffering from lethal yellowing. A research camp has been built to monitor turtle populations and do awareness activities with local communities. There are plans to designate this beach as a Wildlife Sanctuary. Ramsar site no. 1348

Playa Tortuguera El Verde Camacho. 02/02/04; Sinaloa; 6,450 ha; 22°53'N 106°05'W. Wildlife Reserve. The 25km long beach is the most important reproductive area for the Olive Ridley Turtle Lepidochelys olivacea in the state of Sinaloa (Gulf of California), where they arrive to nest in groups of 40-50 individuals per night. It is also feeding and migration habitat for the Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata, Black turtle Chelonia agassizi, and sporadically, the Leatherback Turtle Dermochelys coriacea, all of them endangered species and experiencing notorious decline in numbers. Due to the influx of the Quelite River, coastal lagoons behind the beach are both brackish and freshwater. They provide refuge to resident and migratory birds and nursery waters to economically important fish species such as pargos Lutjanus spp. Mangrove forests dominated by Laguncularia racemosa and deciduous tropical forest are the dominant vegetation. Aquaculture, fishing, agriculture and tourism are the main uses of the site. Building, night illumination, waste disposal and the transit of 4x4 vehicles affect the quality of the beach as turtle nesting ground, while fish farming and agriculture are modifying the hydrological regime and causing pollution and sedimentation. Turtle nesting has been monitored and researched since 1975, and a management plan is pending official approval. Ramsar site no. 1349.

Playa Tortuguera Mexiquillo. 02/02/04; Michoacán; 67 ha; 18°07'N 102°52'W. National Sanctuary. The Mexiquillo beach is important for the breeding of three species of marine turtles: the Leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), the Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas); it is considered one of the five most important beaches for the breeding of the Leatherback turtle in the Mexican and Mesoamerican Pacific. This species has been included in the IUCN List of Threatened Species since 2000 and the three species are protected under the Mexican law and listed by CITES. The site is still well conserved, but an increase in the tourist sector during the past few years could imply the urbanization of the area. The lack of strict protection of the beach area, and its frequent use by 4-wheel-drive vehicles, is also a major threat to the turtles populations as well as to the fragile vegetation of the beaches. Ramsar site no. 1350.

Playa Tortuguera X'cacel-X'cacelito. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 362 ha; 20º20'N 87º21'W. National Sanctuary. The site has the highest breeding index in the Quintana Roo State and in Mexico for the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). It also includes a terrestrial band of 35 ha because of the importance of its vegetation: forests of Kuka palms (Pseudophoenix sargentti), Florida Thatch palm (Thrina radiata) and mangroves (Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia germinans, Laguncularia racemosa and Conocarpus erecta). The area also presents some underground water outcrops close to the sea shore that enhance the development of aquatic vegetation and the abundance of juvenile fishes and coral, some listed on the Endangered Species Lists. The main threat to the X'Cacel and X'Cacelito beaches is the land ownership - the site lies on private properties and though the turtles have been traditionally protected by the landowners, some tourist infrastructures development projects could threaten the site and its fauna, as e.g. the one presented in 1999 and rejected by the Federal Government in 2001. Ramsar site no. 1351.

Presa Jalpan. 02/02/04; Querétaro; 68 ha; 21º12'N 099º28W. The Jalpan dam was built on the riverbed of the Jalpan river, its only water source; it has a maximum capacity of 8 million liters and is a breeding site and shelter for 33 resident and migratory bird species. The greatest colonies are the Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) and some herons like the Snowy egret (Egretta thula), the Cattle egret (Bubulca ibis), and the Great egret (Casmerodius albus). There are in total 140 bird species around the dam, including waterfowl. Of the "non water" species, 8 have a special protection status and 5 are endemic in Mexico. Around the dam several mammal species can be found like the White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica), the Tree Ocelot (Leopardus weidii), the Jaguarondi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) and occasionally the Cougar or Florida Panther (Felis concolor). The Jalpan dam is used primarily for water supply for domestic uses. Sedimentation caused by deforestation and erosion is the main threat to the area, though massive tourism is also a potentially key factor. Ramsar site no. 1352.

Reserva de la Biosfera Archipiélago de Revillagigedo. 02/02/04; Mexican Island Territory; 636,685 ha; 18°50'N 112°47'W. Biosphere Reserve. Nearly 400km offshore in the Pacific Ocean, this volcanic archipelago is home to a unique set of endemic flora and fauna as well as well-preserved terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Isla Socorro is the largest island, with the Evermann volcano peaking 1050 meters, followed by Clarión, San Benedicto and Roca Partida islands. Socorro presents an interesting array of vegetation following the altitudinal gradient, featuring coastal halophytes, shrubs of Dodonaea viscosa, Guettarda insularis, Croton masonii; forests of Figs Ficus cotinifolia, Bumelia socorroensis and Psidium galapageium. Ten endemic species and subspecies of birds have been recorded in Socorro; however, three of them, including the Soccorro Dove Zenaida graysoni are considered extinct in the wild (there are plans of reintroduction with several captive individuals in Germany). The site is well preserved and uninhabited, apart from some navy officers. Diving and fishing groups visit the islands regularly. Volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and fires pose risks to the islands' wildlife, but invasive species remain the main threat. The federal government funds a group of technicians to eradicate introduced sheep, pigs and rabbits. A management plan is in place. Ramsar site no. 1357.

Reserva de la Biosfera Banco Chinchorro. 02/02/04; Quintana Roo; 144,360 ha; 18º35'N 87º20'W. Biosphere Reserve. Reefs complex classified as a false atoll, or platform reef, the lagoon contains seagrass beds and sandy areas, with an average depth of 6m. It has four types of habitats: coral reefs, seagrass beds, sandy areas and mangroves. At least 15 species of threatened fauna and flora are present in this area, despite its small size. Two species of great economic importance are also present in the lagoon: the Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus) and the Queen conch (Strombus gigas) - controlled fishing techniques allow for the conservation of both species. The merging parts of the area are frequently used by migratory and local birds for feeding and resting. Fishing is the only economic activity in the area but some tourist plans may prove to be a threat. Gathering of information for designation of the site was supported by the Ramsar Wetlands for the Future Initiative. Ramsar site no. 1353.

Reserva de la Biosfera Chamela-Cuixmala. 02/02/04; Jalisco; 13,142 ha; 19°29'N 104°59'W. Biosphere Reserve. The site comprises a mountainous landscape, rocky coasts and a deltaic plain on the Pacific coast, noteworthy for its communities of deciduous tropical forest. The estuary of the Cuixmala River and the lagoons of El Corte y La Manzanillera are home of a population of 600 American Crocodiles and nesting site of several marine turtles and the southernmost colony of Least Terns Sterna antillarum. The forests host pumas, ocelots and jaguars and is the only known site for the rat Xenomys nelsoni. The reserve is uninhabited and the vegetation is well preserved. Fishing, hunting and scientific research by UNAM are the main human activities, thus making the site one of the best known tropical areas in terms of ecology. A management plan is being implemented. Ramsar site no. 1334.

Reserva de la Biosfera Los Petenes. 02/02/04; Campeche; 282,857 ha; 20°11'N 090°32'W. Biosphere Reserve. Located in the western Yucatan peninsula just north of the city of Campeche, whose old town is a World Heritage Site. Los Petenes owes its name to this unique ecosystem, consisting of islands of low seasonally flooded and/or mangrove forests associated with underwater springs from sinkholes or cenotes. The marine parts of the site are noteworthy for their seagrass beds, while inland the landscape is dominated by a saline wetland dotted with petenes. Worth highlighting are the communities of Button Mangrove Conocarpus erectus and Campeche Wood Haematoxylum campechianum. There are several globally near-threatened species, such as the Horseshoe Crab Limulus polyphemus and the Jabiru Jabiru mycteria. The site also hosts relatively large colonies of the White Ibis Eudocimus albus and Greater Flamingoes Phoenicopterus ruber. Cod, sardines, shrimp and octopus fishing are the main human activities in the site. Overfishing of stocks and illegal tree felling are the main problems, as well as the lack of the implementation of the management plan. In 2003, a joint council of several institutions was established to carry out a conservation initiative in western Yucatan. Ramsar site no. 1354.

Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún. 02/02/04; Yucatán; 81,482 ha; 20º45'N 090º22'W. Biosphere Reserve. A diverse complex of wetlands including mangroves, seagrass beds, small estuaries, coastal dunes, hypersaline coastal lagoons, karstic caves and other coastal wetland types. Fresh water from subterranean aquifers have an outlet in the site. Eight specific vegetation zones are present, providing habitat for several notable or endangered species of plants. The vegetative diversity gives rise to an abundant fauna, representing a high percentage of species known in the Yucatan, including numerous threatened or endangered species. The site is of particular importance as a nesting and feeding site for turtles and migratory birds. Human activities include fishing, tourism, and salt extraction. Special research and educational efforts are devoted to the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the area. Ramsar site no. 1333.

Sistema Lacustre Ejidos de Xochimilco y San Gregorio Atlapulco. 02/02/04; Distrito Federal; 2,657 ha; 19º17'N 099º04'W. Protected area; World Heritage Site. A remaining ecosystem of the Mexico valley surrounded by the urban growth of Mexico City, consisting of seasonal freshwater lakes feeding from groundwater deposits, the site maintains today the cultural traditions of chinampas (crops in the wetlands). Vegetation is mainly of cattail Typha latifolia, bulrush Schoenoplectus americanus, the invasive water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes, and trees such as Salix bonplandiana. The vulnerable Axolotl Salamander Ambystoma mexicanum inhabits the site, as well as other threatened or endemic species of reptiles, amphibians and birds. Water levels in the aquifers are being depleted, thus causing the terrain to sink and the soil to dry. Eutrophication, pollution, silting, salinization and invasive species are putting pressure on the site, not to mention the impacts of the surrounding urban environment. During weekends, thousands of tourist draw to the site for rides in typical boats (trajineras). A management plan is due to be ready in 2004. Ramsar site no. 1363.

Sistema Lagunar Alvarado. 02/02/04; Veracruz; 267,010 ha; 18°38'N 095°51'W. A lagoon and estuarine complex comprising several coastal brackish lagoons, more than 100 interior lagoons and parts of the Papaloapan, Acula, Blanco and Limón rivers. The site features representative and diverse ecosystems of the coastal plain of the Gulf of Mexico, such as coastal dunes, reedbeds of Cyperus spp., cattail Typha spp., palm forests of Sabal mexicana, Scheelea liebmaniim Acrocomia mexicana, oak forests of Quercus oleoides; apompales (Pachira aquatica); and large mangrove forests. It is regarded as the most important site for the American Manatee Trichechus manatus in Veracruz. Silting, agricultural expansion, mangrove cutting and extensive cattle raising are threatening the site, as are increases in fish catch and the use of banned fishing nets. The area is highly regarded as of conservation priority and listed as an Important Bird Area. The Biological Research Institute of the Universidad Veracruzana has carried out several research activities in the area. Ramsar site no. 1355.

Previously existing Ramsar Sites (brown), new Ramsar Sites (pink), and federal protected areas (green)

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Number of » Contracting Parties: 168 Sites designated for the
» List of Wetlands of
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2,186 Total surface area of designated sites (hectares): 208,674,247

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