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Revista de Biología Tropical

On-line version ISSN 0034-7744Print version ISSN 0034-7744


NAVA, Héctor  and  RAMIREZ-HERRERA, M. Teresa. Government conservation policies on Mexican coastal areas: is "top-down" management working?. Rev. biol. trop [online]. 2011, vol.59, n.4, pp.1487-1501. ISSN 0034-7744.

Marine and terrestrial ecosystems are declining globally due to environmental degradation and poorly planned resource use. Traditionally, local government agencies have been responsible of the management of natural reserves to preserve biodiversity. Nonetheless, much of these approaches have failed, suggesting the development of more integrative strategies. In order to discuss the importance of a holistic approach in conservation initiatives, coastal and underwater landscape value and biological/environmental indicators of coral reef degradation were assessed using the study case of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero coastal area. This area shelters representative coral reef structures of the Eastern Pacific coast and its terrestrial biodiversity and archaeology enhance the high value of its coastal area. This study explored the landscape value of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems using the geomorphosite approach in two sites on the Zihuatanejo coastal area: Caleta de Chon and Manzanillo Beach. Sedimentation rate, water transparency, chlorophyll and total suspended solids were recorded underwater in each site for environmental characterization. 50 photo-quadrants on five transects were surveyed between 3-4m depth to record coverage (%) of living corals, dead corals, algae, sand and rocks. The conservation status of coral reefs was assessed by the coral mortality index (MI). Landscape values showed that both terrestrial and marine ecosystems had important scientific and aesthetic values, being Manzanillo Beach the site with the highest potential for conservation initiatives (TtV=14.2). However, coral reefs face elevated sedimentation rates (up to 1.16kg/m2d) and low water transparency (less of 5m) generated by coastal land use changes that have increased soil erosion in the adjacent coastal area. High coverage of dead corals (23.6%) and algae (up to 29%) confirm the low values in conservation status of coral reefs (MI=0.5), reflecting a poorly-planned management. Current conditions are the result of "top-down" conservation strategies in Zihuatanejo, as Federal and Municipal authorities do not coordinate, disregard local community in coral reef management, and ignore the intimate relationship between the coastal and marine realms. This work confirms the importance of conservation strategies with a holistic approach, considering both terrestrial and marine ecosystems in coastal areas; and that these initiatives should include local coastal communities in management and decision-taking processes done by government authorities. Rev. Biol. Trop. 59 (4): 1487-1501. Epub 2011 December 01.

Keywords : conservation; coral reefs; Mexican Pacific coast; coastal management; government policies; Natural Protected Areas.

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