The Threat of Climate Change to Mangroves in Mexico

This article highlights the danger posed by climate change to mangroves in Mexico and the importance of protecting and conserving these wetlands. It talks about how rising sea levels might affect the Yucatan Peninsula and how local people are working to restore and reforest mangrove ecosystems.

The Threat of Climate Change to Mangroves in Mexico
Panoramic aerial view of mangroves of Dzilam, Yucatan, Mexico. Credit: Semar

According to Carlos Manuel Burelo, a researcher at the Universidad Juarez Autonoma de Tabasco (UJAT), the melting of glaciers caused by the climate crisis could have devastating consequences for the Yucatan peninsula. Up to 40% of the territory and 30% of sea-level towns like Cancun are at risk of submerging.

Burelo, a biologist who conducts research in the San Pedro River mangroves on the Tabasco-Guatemala border, warns that this process could repeat what happened 125,000 years ago when global warming caused the poles to melt and the sea level to rise. If this happens again, it could flood cities such as Villahermosa, Cancun, and Merida, resulting in a catastrophic situation for Mexico.

Therefore, Burelo emphasizes the need to protect and conserve mangroves and wetlands, as they are the first signs of evidence and warning in a cyclical process. He urges urgent action to prevent this catastrophe and to safeguard the future of these regions.

Collaborative Effort to Restore Mangroves and Wetlands in Cinco Lagunas

The biologist is leading a collaborative effort between UJAT and private companies to establish community nurseries that aid in the restoration and reforestation of mangroves and wetlands. The project is based in Cinco Lagunas, a small community located in the municipality of Comalcalco, 250 kilometers away from Balancán.

Since 2015, the community of Cinco Lagunas has been actively involved in monitoring, conservation, and reforestation tasks. In addition, the fishermen in the area are permitted by Mexican environmental authorities to reuse and repurpose mangrove waste to make charcoal.

Furthermore, for the past six years, Cinco Lagunas has celebrated the "Mangrove and Wetlands Festival". This event features an allegorical boat contest that pays tribute to the ecosystem, promotes conservation efforts, and helps mitigate the climate crisis.

Community-Led Efforts to Restore Mangroves and Wetlands in  Mexican Towns

José de la Cruz, the president of the Cinco Lagunas surveillance council, stated that after six days of charcoal production and cooling, the fishermen in the area yield six tons of charcoal, providing a source of income for 50 families. "We clean and reforest the areas simultaneously. That is our work," he told EFE.

To revive the mangroves in Jalpa de Méndez, Ursulo Galván, a community in southeastern Mexico devastated by a major fire 50 years ago, has organized its residents. Similarly, in Lázaro Cárdenas, a town also destroyed by fire, oil activity has contributed to the degradation of the ecosystem.

In response, the community, along with environmentalists, researchers, and students, have come together to clean the canals, rivers, and lagoons in the area. They have established a nursery and undertake various tasks such as monitoring illegal logging and fires, tracking pests, and reforesting wetlands. Additionally, they take samples at different locations.

This community-driven approach has successfully restored 550 hectares of red, white, and black mangroves. As a result, the ecosystem has seen the return of animals such as deer, margays, armadillos, and tepezcuintle. "We all know each other in our community and work hard. We train each other and have two fishing cooperatives. Everyone has been taught that we cannot destroy our mangroves," said Josué Selván Pérez, president of the Úrsulo Galván commissariat.