An assessment of natural and human disturbance effects on Mexican ecosystems: current trends and research gaps
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.
Calderon-Aguilera, L.E., V.H. Rivera-Monroy, L. Porter-Bolland, A. Martinez-Yrizar, L. Ladah, M. Martinez-Ramos, J. Alcocer, A.L. Santiago-Perez, H.A. Hernandez-Arana, V.M. Reyes-Gomez, D.R. Perez-Salicrup, V. Diaz-Nunez, J. Sosa-Ramirez, J. Herrera-Silveira, A. Burquez. 2012. An assessment of natural and human disturbance effects on Mexican ecosystems: current trends and research gaps. Biodiversity and Conservation 21(3): 589-617.