FCE LTER Journal Articles

Title

An assessment of natural and human disturbance effects on Mexican ecosystems: current trends and research gaps

Authors

Luis E. Calderon-Aguilera, Division de Oceanologıa, Centro de Investigacion Cientıfica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada Carretera Ensenada
Vıctor H. Rivera-Monroy, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, School of the Coast and the Environment, Louisiana State University
Luciana Porter-Bolland, Instituto de Ecologia, A.C., Red de Ecologia Funcional
Angelina Martinez-Yrizar, Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Lydia B. Ladah, Division de Oceanologıa, Centro de Investigacion Cientıfica y de Educacion Superior de Ensenada Carretera Ensenada
Miguel Martinez-Ramos, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (Campus Morelia) Antigua Carretera a Patzcuaro
Javier Alcocer, Proyecto de Investigacion en Limnologıa Tropical, FES Iztacala, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
Ana Luisa Santiago-Perez, Departamento de Produccio´n Forestal, CUCBA, Universidad de Guadalajara
Hector A. Hernandez-Arana, Depto Ecologıa y Sistematica Acuatica, Area Conservacion de la Biodiversidad El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Unidad Chetumal
Victor M. Reyes-Gomez
Diego R. Perez-Salicrup, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (Campus Morelia) Antigua Carretera a Patzcuaro
Vicente Dıaz-Nun˜ez, Centro de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Auto´noma de Aguascalientes
Joaquin Sosa-Ramırez, Centro de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Auto´noma de Aguascalientes,
Jorge Herrera-Silveira, CINVESTAV-IPNFollow
Alberto Burquez, Instituto de Ecologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico

Abstract

Mexico harbors more than 10% of the planet’s endemic species. However, the integrity and biodiversity of many ecosystems is experiencing rapid transformation under the influence of a wide array of human and natural disturbances. In order to disentangle the effects of human and natural disturbance regimes at different spatial and temporal scales, we selected six terrestrial (temperate montane forests, montane cloud forests, tropical rain forests, tropical semi-deciduous forests, tropical dry forests, and deserts) and four aquatic (coral reefs, mangrove forests, kelp forests and saline lakes) ecosystems. We used semiquantitative statistical methods to assess (1) the most important agents of disturbance affecting the ecosystems, (2) the vulnerability of each ecosystem to anthropogenic and natural disturbance, and (3) the differences in ecosystem disturbance regimes and their resilience. Our analysis indicates a significant variation in ecological responses, recovery capacity, and resilience among ecosystems. The constant and widespread presence of human impacts on both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems is reflected either in reduced area coverage for most systems, or reduced productivity and biodiversity, particularly in the case of fragile ecosystems (e.g., rain forests, coral reefs). In all cases, the interaction between historical human impacts and episodic high intensity natural disturbance (e.g., hurricanes, fires) has triggered a reduction in species diversity and induced significant changes in habitat distribution or species dominance. The lack of monitoring programs assessing before/after effects of major disturbances in Mexico is one of the major limitations to quantifying the commonalities and differences of disturbance effects on ecosystem properties.

Comments

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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