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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 589–617 | Cite as

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

  • Luis E. Calderon-Aguilera
  • Víctor H. Rivera-Monroy
  • Luciana Porter-Bolland
  • Angelina Martínez-Yrízar
  • Lydia B. Ladah
  • Miguel Martínez-Ramos
  • Javier Alcocer
  • Ana Luisa Santiago-Pérez
  • Héctor A. Hernandez-Arana
  • Víctor M. Reyes-Gómez
  • Diego R. Pérez-Salicrup
  • Vicente Díaz-Nuñez
  • Joaquín Sosa-Ramírez
  • Jorge Herrera-Silveira
  • Alberto Búrquez
Review Paper

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 semi-quantitative 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.

Keywords

Disturbance index Anthropogenic disturbance Hurricanes Long-term ecological research 

Abbreviations

CHD

Chihuahuan desert

CRC

Coral reefs from the Caribbean Sea

CRP

Coral reefs from the Pacific Ocean

ENSO

El Niño Southern Oscillation

KF

Kelp forest

LTER

Long term ecological research network (ILTER, international MEXLTER, Mexican chapter of the ILTER)

MCF

Montane cloud forests

MFYP

Mangrove forests from the Yucatan Peninsula

NTFP

Non-timber forest products

SLE

Saline lake ecosystems

TDF

Tropical dry forests

TMF

Temperate montane forests

TRF

Tropical rain forest

TSDF

Tropical semi-deciduous forests of the Yucatan Peninsula

Notes

Acknowledgments

The preparation of the manuscript was supported by funding from the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia to the RED MEXLTER program (CONACyT-Fondo Institucional: I0002; Proyecto# 24847, Etapa: 001) through the project Demandas Hidrológicas de los Ecosistemas Naturales en Mexico: Fase 1. Partial funding for VHRM participation was provided by the NSF Florida Coastal Everglades-LTER program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. We thank a number of colleagues from the RED MEXLTER for comments and ideas during the preparation of this work and Enriquena Bustamante and Bárbara Rojas for editing assistance and anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

10531_2011_218_MOESM1_ESM.doc (251 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 251 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis E. Calderon-Aguilera
    • 1
  • Víctor H. Rivera-Monroy
    • 2
  • Luciana Porter-Bolland
    • 3
  • Angelina Martínez-Yrízar
    • 4
  • Lydia B. Ladah
    • 1
  • Miguel Martínez-Ramos
    • 5
  • Javier Alcocer
    • 6
  • Ana Luisa Santiago-Pérez
    • 7
  • Héctor A. Hernandez-Arana
    • 8
  • Víctor M. Reyes-Gómez
    • 9
  • Diego R. Pérez-Salicrup
    • 5
  • Vicente Díaz-Nuñez
    • 10
  • Joaquín Sosa-Ramírez
    • 10
  • Jorge Herrera-Silveira
    • 11
  • Alberto Búrquez
    • 4
  1. 1.División de OceanologíaCentro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada Carretera EnsenadaEnsenadaMexico
  2. 2.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesSchool of the Coast and the Environment, Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Ecología, A.C., Red de Ecología FuncionalXalapaMexico
  4. 4.Instituto de EcologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México, ApdoHermosilloMexico
  5. 5.Centro de Investigaciones en EcosistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Campus Morelia) Antigua Carretera a PátzcuaroMoreliaMexico
  6. 6.Proyecto de Investigación en Limnología Tropical, FES IztacalaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Av. de los BarriosTlalnepantlaMexico
  7. 7.Departamento de Producción Forestal, CUCBAUniversidad de GuadalajaraZapopanMexico
  8. 8.Depto Ecología y Sistemática AcuáticaÁrea Conservación de la Biodiversidad El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Unidad ChetumalChetumalMexico
  9. 9.Instituto de Ecología, A.C. Red Ambiente y SustentabilidadChihuahuaMexico
  10. 10.Centro de Ciencias Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma de AguascalientesCiudad UniversitariaMexico
  11. 11.CINVESTAV-IPN, Unidad MéridaMéridaMexico

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