Wetlands in ​​the northern Gulf of California, in addition to being enigmatic landscapes where the desert turns into a green oasis, are ecosystems that integrate incredible biodiversity and a wide range of “ecosystem services,” for example, acting as nurseries for local fisheries and mitigating climate change through carbon sequestration.

Fishermen in Puerto Lobos preparing their nets. The commercial species this community relies on need the food and shelter provided by the mangrove estuary wetland (Photo from CEDO archives).

As much as we need to further scientific studies of regional wetlands through ecosystem modeling, CEDO has always strived to understand the socio-economic system together with the ecological system. This has led us to identify, and act upon, the need to prevent further human impacts on wetlands, such as unregulated development, climate change, and pollution. This sort of direct action is best done by the people who live closest to, and rely most directly on these precious habitats. In order to communicate the value of the Gulf’s endangered wetlands to local people, as well as to decision makers, researchers, teachers, tourists, students, and public visitors, we at CEDO have had to translate the broad concept of a wetland into something more manageable: hands-on experiences.

Kids, and their families, from Puerto Lobos pick up trash along the edge of the mangrove estuary (Photo by Angeles Sánchez).

On February 2’nd, International Wetlands Day, my colleagues and I visited the community of Puerto Lobos, Caborca, which hosts a small, but no-less important, wetland where the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), a record holding species for carbon sequestration, is at its most northern range. The small township is part of CEDO’s “Fisheries and Biological Corridor Program,” which seeks to help coastal communities by protecting economically and biologically important sites like this one.

Eleazar López speaks to local elementary schools about the importance of their wetland and mangrove estuary (Photo by Angeles Sánchez).

Together with 25 local primary school students and their parents, many of whom are local fishermen, we toured the wetland, identifying mangrove species and picking up trash as we went. At the end of the day, the students presented drawings of what they most liked about the mangrove wetland and what they will do to help care for it. On this special day we witnessed first-hand how direct participation and experiential learning has evident transformative power, and we were once again reminded how much these types of interactions are needed to change perspectives and protect the crucial ecosystem services that wetland habitats provide, for all mankind.

A local girl picks up plastic debris from the edges of the mangroves (Photo by Angeles Sánchez).

Where the mangrove estuary at Puerto Lobos was once perceived by locals as a somewhat worthless swamp where dune buggies were raced through the mud, the community is now hoping to race along the path to establishing internationally-recognized legal protection (RAMSAR designation) for their wetland, which they now know is a nursery for the fisheries resources that support their very livelihoods. We invite YOU to join us in recognizing the value of wetlands by joining us on a CEDO tour to Morua Estuary in Puerto Peñasco, and/or lending a hand to conserve your own local wetland wherever you might be.

Local children present artistic representations of what they liked most about their mangrove wetland and what they plan to do to protect it (Photos by Angeles Sánchez).