By: Dr. Laura Monti, Borderlands Restoration Senior Fellow, Research Associate, University of Arizona Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and The Southwest Center
Mangrove forests and seagrass beds are some of the most efficient ecosystems for carbon storage. Off the coast from the Comcáac Indigenous communities, within the Infiernillo Channel, there are 13 mangrove forests and more than 900 hectares of seagrass beds which is more than exist throughout the entire rest of the Gulf of California. With support from 11th Hour Racing and the Schmidt Family Foundation the members of the Comcáac blue carbon team explored ways to expand the existing seagrass beds and mangrove forests to increase carbon sequestration to strengthen climate resilience for these ecosystems while generating income for the community.
Comcáac team leaders Alberto Mellado, Erika Barnett, Gabriela Suárez, Gary Nabhan, and Laura Monti led an effort to cultivate 4000 mangrove seedlings which were transplanted to four estuaries in the Infiernillo Channel while scuba divers sowed thousands of eelgrass seeds and transplanted hundreds of rhizomes into the sea floor along the margins of seagrass beds at two different sites. This team is also working with the University of Arizona and Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies to renew the designation as a recognized site of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
In addition to capturing carbon, these systems provide critical habitat and food for resident and migrating sea turtles. Among the five species of sea turtles that migrate or reside in the Infiernillo Channel, the sea turtle conservation team Grupo Tortuguero Comcáac-Desemboque led by Mayra Astorga, have documented that olive ridley sea turtle nests have increased significantly during the past seven years possibly related to warming waters further south. In addition to data collection, this group has been monitoring nests, collecting, and incubating eggs, releasing hatchlings, tagging turtles, and leading community education.
During the 2020-2021 seasons close to 10,000 thousand sea turtle hatchlings were released. This two year trend represents a dramatic increase from previous years likely due to reduced human activity during the COVID pandemic. A new initiative supported by Amazon Conservation will link Grupo Tortuguero with other Indigenous coastal communities of Central and South America to facilitate knowledge exchange.
This interweaving of programs across human health including food, water, and energy security as well as climate change resilience is rooted in Comcáac traditional knowledge and carried out with full knowledge and invitation of the Comcáac community governing authorities and leaders.
If you haven't already, read the first two blogs in this three blog update about work happening with the Comcáac Indigenous Communities.
Lea la versión en español de este blog en este enlace.
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