World Wetlands Day 2005 -- Mexico

World Wetlands Day 2005 -- Mexico

1 February 2005

Mexico designates 4 Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day

Following the high profile events of World Wetlands Day last year with 34 designations, this year Mexico continues to increase its number of Ramsar sites by adding four more to the List of Wetlands of International Importance. The new designations are a dune slack complex in the city of Veracruz, a national park in the island of Cozumel in the Caribbean, and a coastal lagoon and a mountain lakeshore in Michoacán state, where the WWD celebrations will be focused this year. Mexico now has 55 Ramsar sites with a surface are of 5,115,393 hectares.

Summaries of the sites have been prepared by Iván Darío Valencia.

Humedales del Lago de Pátzcuaro. 02/02/05; Michoacán; 707 ha: 19º34'N 101º40'W. The southwestern sector of Lake Pátzcuaro, lying at 2,035 meters asl in an endorrheic basin of volcanic origin, is the shallowest area of the lake, with extensive areas of marshes of American bulrush Scirpus americanus, Cattail Typha latifolia, Grassleaf arrowhead Sagitaria graminea and Black flatsedge Cyperus niger, as well as communities of Banana waterlily Nymphaea mexicana and Illinois pondweed Potamogeton illinoensis. The lake is rich in endemic fish species such as the Bulldog goodeid Alloophorus robustus, Chirostoma estor, Algansea lacustris, Goodea luitpoldii and the molluscs Opeas patzcuarense and Potamopyrgus patzcuarensis. It also provides habitat for two globally endangered species: the Black-Polled Yellowthroat Geothlypis speciosa and the salamander Ambystoma dumerilii. Surrounding areas are densely populated and the lake has provided livelihoods for the P'urepecha indigenous people and their descendants. The lake is renowned worldwide for hosting the Day of the Dead celebrations in November in several of the villages on its shores and islands. Problems arise from eutrophication and siltation due to erosion in the basin, disposal of untreated waters from agriculture and urban areas, overfishing and invasive species. There is a permanent dredging program of silted areas and an ongoing plan to recover populations of Chirostoma estor. Ramsar site no. 1447.

Marshes in the southern shore of lake Patzcuaro - Pantanos en la zona sur del Lago de Patzcuaro. Foto: Iván Darío Valencia, 2004.

Parque Nacional Arrecifes de Cozumel. 02/02/05; Quintana Roo; 11,987 ha; 20º16'N 087º02'W. National Park. The site covers the coral reefs off the southern coast of Cozumel island, one of the prime destinations for divers worldwide. Hard and soft corals, zoanthids, polychaets, actinarians, hydroids, sponges, crustaceans, mollusks, echinoderms and reef fish are very diverse, as well as algae and sea grasses. The park is habitat to numerous endangered species, such as the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Green (Chelonia mydas) turtles, the Queen triggerfish (Balistes vetula) and the endemic Splendid Toadfish (Sanopus splendidus). Lobster, crab and pink conch Strombus gigas are comercially fished, populations of the latter having recovered following a prolonged fishing ban. Highly conspicuous fish are the Cat (Ginglymostoma cirratum), Tiger (Galeocerdo cuvieri) and Blacktip (Carcharinus limbatus) sharks, as well as the Southern stingray (Dasyatis americana). The reefs develop in underwater cliffs, whereas there are some coastal lagoons and sand bars at the tip of the island. On the shore, stands of Red Mangrove Rhizophora mangle and coastal scrub are the main vegetation types. Over 1,500 divers visit the park every day, and there are concerns over the impacts of scuba diving, especially at night. Hotel development has contributed to a deterioration of water quality through their discharges. A management plan is in place since 1998 regulating diving, fishing, navigation, anchoring and other activities. Ramsar site no. 1449.

Sistema de Lagunas Interdunarias de la Ciudad de Veracruz. 02/02/05; Veracruz; 141 ha. 19º10'N 096º10'W. On the periphery of the city of Veracruz and within the city itself, 18 humid dune slacks comprise the site, the largest being Laguna Olmeca with 60 ha. These are rare geomorphologic features that have permanent water but depend entirely of rainfall recharging the aquifers. Communities of jointed flatsedge Cyperus articulatus, Frog fruit Phyla nodiflora, Cattail Typha latifolia, and Pontederia sagittata populate the site. Noteworthy fauna include Western grebe Aechmophorus occidentalis, Snowy Egret Egretta thula, American Coot Fulica americana, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna autumnalis and Wood Stork Mycteria americana. Filling or dredging for land reclamation and urbanization are the biggest threats to the lagoons, and many have already disappeared, thus reducing the flood control services the slacks provide for the city. Low water quality is also a concern in most of the lagoons. Foot paths have been constructed along the shores and some restoration work has been carried out, dredging sediments in some of the water bodies. The municipality of Veracruz has recently taken over the management and restoration of the lagoon system. Ramsar site no. 1450.

Laguna Costera El Caimán. 02/02/05; Michoacán; 1,125 ha; 17°58'N 102°16´W. A long coastal lagoon bordering the steep Pacific shoreline close to the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, the site has two mouths connecting intermittently to the sea and dividing a sand bar. The lagoon is covered by stands of button mangrove Conocarpus erectus, Red mangrove Rhizophora mangle and White mangrove Avicennia germinans. Several endangered species inhabit the site, such as the American Crocodile Crocodylus acutus, the Yellow-headed Parrot Amazona oratrix, the Jaguar Panthera onca and the Green turtle Chelonia mydas. Coconut production, subsistence fishing and small-scale tourism are the main uses of the area. Adverse impacts arise from the felling of mangroves, sewage and industrial discharges, invasive alien species, dredging, filling, housing development and waste disposal. The site is expected to be declared a Protected Area soon after designation. Ramsar site no. 1448.

"There's wealth in wetland diversity
- don't lose it!"