Chapter: ecological modeling and conservation on the coasts of Mexico

Mexico harbors several types of coastal ecosystems both in the Atlantic (Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean) and in the Pacific (tropical and subtropical) on which the regional and national socio-economic development depends. They have been studied through several modeling approaches for management, conservation, and necessary ecological studies. In this chapter, we review and synthesize the most recent and relevant studies conducted, with particular emphasis on coral reefs. In the Caribbean, coral reefs are likely the most rapidly changing ecosystems with a net decline in the cover of reef-building corals accompanied by rapid increases of fleshy macroalgae over the last decades. Remaining coral communities are changing toward weedy coral species that are unlikely to support reef growth and thus provide important services to other species and humans. Since 2015 the Mexican Caribbean coast experienced a massive influx of drifting Sargassum spp. that accumulated on the shores, resulting in a build-up of decaying beach-cast material and near-shore murky brown waters (Sargassum-brown-tides), drastically modifying near-shore waters conditions by reducing light, oxygen (hypoxia or anoxia), and pH. The Gulf of Mexico’s coastal ecosystems have also been under significant threats because of human activities, such as gas and oil extraction, pollution, and fishing. Despite numerous studies conducted in the Pacific, biodiversity knowledge is still incomplete, highly biased toward specific habitats, and often narrow in taxonomic and spatial scope. Concurrently, ecological processes that drive biodiversity have been scarcely disentangled. In spite of sub-optimal conditions for coral calcification (lower alkalinity, upwelling, ENSO, high nutrients concentration) some coral reefs thrive in the Pacific. Calcification rate is disrupted with ENSO events (20–50% drop), but it is not correlated to historical changes in sea surface temperature and it might decrease between 15 and 22% due to ocean acidification.

Calderón-Aguilera L. E., Pérez-España H., Cabral-Tena R. A., Norzagaray-López C. O., López-Pérez A., Alvarez-Filip L. & Reyes-Bonilla H., 2021. Ecological modeling and conservation on the coasts of Mexico. In: Ortiz M. & Jordán F. (Eds.), Marine Coastal Ecosystems Modelling and Conservation, pp 3-25. Springer, Cham. Chapter (restricted access).

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