Mexican Mangroves, the Unknown Ecosystem
We love Mexican beaches so much, yet we barely stop to think about the diversity of the coasts. And the mangroves that develop alongside them are refuges, barriers and enigmas, vital protection for our country’s coastlines.
Mangroves are refuges; reptiles and birds lay their eggs and raise their young in them, small mammals improvise caves there and fish of all sizes find escape routes amidst their branches. What’s more, marine catastrophes are less disastrous thanks to mangroves that withstand the worst pounding.
Is wetland the same as mangrove?
A mangrove is a wetland.
A wetland is any area of land that borders on the ocean or another body of water and is subject to ongoing or intermittent flooding. Wetlands may be swamps, marshes or mudflats.
A mangrove is a specific wetland, a “saltwater swamp”. It is a marine coast ecosystem that develops in tropical and subtropical areas.
And what is inside mangroves?
An extravaganza of flora and fauna concealed among the branches: from insects and fish to mammals that use it as a hiding place. The animals that make the most of it are turtles, crocodiles and migratory birds. What’s more, mangroves help control flooding and erosion, and they act as a filter, improving water quality.
Mangroves are natural barriers against the ravages of hurricanes, cyclones and storms. Sea storms lose intensity when up they come up against the dauntless, snarled mangrove.
What are Mexican mangroves like?
After the United Kingdom, with its 170 such sites, our country is in second place for wetlands (142): a surface area of nearly 21,360,000 acres, of which 59 are mangrove zones.
Mexican mangroves comprise 5% of the world total, placing the country in fourth place. And while they scarcely cover 0.4% of the national territory, 70% of our fishing depends on this ecosystem.
All 17 Mexican states with sea outlets have mangroves. The most extensive are where freshwater inlets and large estuaries are, like the Grijalva, Usumacinta, Tulijá and Papaloapan rivers in the Gulf of Mexico, while the major ones on the Pacific are in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Is it true that Mexican mangroves are in danger?
To find out, the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of the Biodiversity (Conabio) published the report Mangroves in Mexico. Update and Exploration of Data from the Monitoring System 1970/1980-2015, which analyzes the evolution of mangroves from the 1970s to date. The photos in it are georeferenced for examining how deterioration has taken place.
According to the report, Mexico registered over 2,115,000 acres of mangrove between 1970 and 1980. In 2005 the figure shrunk to 1,913,000 and in 2010 to 1,189,000. In 2015 a little over 27,181 acres have been recovered, thanks to consciousness raising and new technologies to protect this ecosystem.
The report can be downloaded here.