The increase in the intensity and frequency of abnormal seawater temperature associated with climate change, and ocean acidification, appear to be significant to the worlds coral reefs as promoters of major bleaching and mortality events observed in recent years; these are added the impact of tourism, fishing and the dumping of pollutants have generated high rates of mortality in organisms worldwide. At the Central Mexican Pacific coral communities are considered as the ones with the highest richness in the region, and are distributed at insular and coastal locations. The branching coral Pocillopora spp. is the genera which the highest abundance and species richness, but also is the one most affected by several bleaching events with high mortality rates (>90%); although is the most affected genera also is highly resilient. Due the abundance, this genera is the main contributor into the maintenance of the reef structure and organisms associated. Due the high rate of loss on coral coverage at the region, there is an urgent need to improve conservation and management strategies by attempting to mitigate negative impact effects over coral communities and promoting species recovery. The purpose of this project is the use of natural fragmentation as a remediation process to increase the coral coverage of the coral community of the coral reef systems at the Mexican Pacific, and specifically two of the proposed sites are Natural Protected Areas. This restoration program will be a baseline for long-term conservation and management techniques ensuring not only the permanence of the Eastern North Pacific coral communities, but the goods and services that the society depends.
Using govermental resources from Mexico as also National Geographic Society funds, from 2014 to date, over 2,000 healthy Pocillopora fragments have been attached to the natural substrata (coral matrix or rocks). The survival rate of the fragments. Only 350 fragments were tagged for monthly measurement and monitoring. The mean growth rate ranges from 0.18 0.02 to 0.35 0.01 cm/month, and to date, we have registered a survival of 89%.
The project is working in three Natural Protected Areas which are considered a biodiversity hotspot at the region. At the same time we were starting the project local decision-makers decided to close the area as an urgent management response to the non-controlled increase of tourist influx in the site as the affectation to the coral community and the organisms associated. Our project contribute to the short-term management actions, and due the possitive result the area is now open but with a restricted use of the coralline areas. We were able to involve the private and touristic sector which develops a high sense of conservation for the area. Our long-term goal is not only to continue with the restoration, but also with the monitoring in order to ensure the success of the project.
Financing (in USD)
During some phases of the project, tourism cooperatives as well as actors from the private sector have contributed in kind with the use of boats and diving equipment loans.
Staff / Technical expertise
In the project currently collaborating two researchers and several graduante and under graduate students from the University of Guadalajara, and staff of PROZONA with specific research on coral communities in the region