Marine protected areas
In partnership with other universities and organizations, we track the impact and efficacy of marine protected areas. Through use of long term ecological monitoring in conjunction with satellite tags, acoustics, and DNA analysis, GCMP researchers define the genetic connectivity and map the ecology of organisms in relation to protected areas. Members of the GCMP use this information to delineate biological and temporal variances among areas and species under differing levels of protection which can translate into socio-economic benefits to local communities. Well-designed and enforced marine reserves can help reverse current trends of ecological degradation, create healthy marine ecosystems, and support the economic sustainability of coastal communities through the ecosystem services they provide.
The Long-Term Ecological Monitoring (LTEM) Program was established in 1998 and now serves as the central hub for much of the research conducted by the Gulf of California Marine Program. Every year, our underwater ecological surveys add to over a decade of data about nearshore marine ecosystems in the central and southern gulf, including rocky reefs, mangrove estuaries, sargassum beds, and seamounts.
We partner with fishermen and local communities to collect and analyze fishing activities via GPS, landings logs, and biological data. With this information, we analyze the spatio-temporal trends of the Gulf of California’s key fisheries to gain a better understanding of the interactions between the ecosystem and the biological, economic and social components surrounding artisanal fishing activities. This program has also fostered a strong, regional and international network of collaborators from all sectors (government, public, academic, fishery) to ensure that sound science is incorporated in management and policy decision-making processes.
Mangroves ecosystem services
Since 2007, we have applied holistic techniques in the research planning, data gathering, and data interpretation of Mexico’s mangroves. By highlighting the importance of different economic activities and ecological processes that are dependent on services provided by mangroves, such as fisheries, blue carbon, nesting and nursery sites; the GCMP’s research has provided implications for ecosystem management at all government levels and identified the consequences of the loss of this ecosystem to local communities.
Led by SIO researcher Joshua Stewart, we have used a combination of satellite tagging, stable isotope analysis, and genetics to study the geographic extent, connectivity and spatial ecology of oceanic manta rays in Bahia de Banderas. Our work has shed light on how mantas in this region are related to populations in the Revillagigedo Archipelago and contributes to the development of conservation strategies and management plans for this vulnerable species.
Isla Rasa, seabird, and sardines
In one of the most fascinating natural events in the Gulf of California, half a million seabirds flock to Isla Rasa, a tiny island of less than one square kilometer, to nest. Since 1979, our collaborator Dr. Enriqueta Velarde, from the Universidad Veracruzana, has been traveling to Rasa Island to monitor these nesting colonies, resulting in an uninterrupted data set spanning 30 years. Using this data, we have contributed to forming a better understanding of the reproduction, diet, and life history of Gulf seabirds, and helped reveal a surprising correlation in which the birds’ relationship to their fishy diet can predict the success of the sardine fishery months in advance.