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Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015

BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q2 • 2015 57 DUMAC’s habitat restoration work. More than 300 acres of mangrove wetlands are recovering as a result of restoring a more natural hydrology. Restoration work included construction of more than 5 miles of canals, hand-dug by local workmen, that bring fresh water into the wetlands, installation of water control structures to prevent the flow of saltwater into the wetlands, and development of artesian wells to bring fresh water to the surface from subterranean channels. The results of this work are immediately apparent—previously devastated areas are now flourishing again. During our field trip we took salinity readings that clearly showed the difference fresh water brought by canals has made in areas previously decimated by saltwater incursion. The “before and after” pictures are striking. A previously denuded area with dead mangrove snags has been restored to a lush, reemerging landscape. We observed scores of mangrove saplings scattered throughout the restored areas, those closest to the sources of fresh water already as tall as seven feet. This dramatic example of a healing habitat became more apparent as we compared areas restored at different points in time. Areas closest to the fresh water canals and wells were carpeted with first generation plants like Salicornia and salt grass; areas further from the freshwater were less verdant. However, compared to areas not yet restored, the transformation was astonishing. Such a simple solution, but a solution made more challenging by the cultural and economic complexities of conservation efforts in Mexico. The natural landscape in this part of the world is undeniably beautiful. In addition to the American Flamingos, our trip up Ria Celestún revealed scores of Brown Pelicans, rails, Black-necked Stilts, egrets and herons. Flocks of Blue-winged Teal circled overhead and small fish circled and splashed in the shallow warm water. Over 300 species of birds have been identified within the Ria Celestún Biosphere Reserve. We even saw a crocodile under the shade of the mangroves but kept a respectful distance. This ecosystem and others like it in Mexico support an amazing variety of plants and animals, and it became very clear why preserving habitat is such a vital goal. At the same time, during the Mangrove Experience we saw evidence of poverty that is all too familiar in this part of the world. According to the Mexican government’s social development agency CONEVAL, in 2012 nearly half of all people in Mexico lived in poverty and about 10% were considered to live in extreme poverty. Poverty was defined as living on no more than 2,329 pesos a month (about $183) in cities, and 1,490 pesos a month (about $117) in rural areas. The benchmark for extreme poverty was 1,125 pesos a month (about $88) in cities and 800 pesos a month (about $63) in the countryside. Moreover, only about 35% of Mexican adults aged 25 to 64 have completed high school and access to education is a major concern for the government. contnued on next page


Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015
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