Monday, June 4, 2012

The Risks Facing the Ro Lagartos Bio-Reserve

Ro Lagartos is one of Mesoamerica's largest and most stunning natural preserves :150,000 hectares of lush forest, tropical wetlands, and turquoise lagoons Sadly, it is also one of the region's most threatened, as its size and natural bounty make it an easy target for despoilment, from directions that one wouldn't naturally expect a bioreserve to need defense against. It will take serious and considered human intervention to maintain the pristine beauty and diverse ecosystem that still exists within its fertile borders.

Weathering Storms

Ro Lagartos has the misfortune of being located directly in the path of many storms that brew up during the Atlantic/Caribbean hurricane season, and as a result, has weathered at least 13 of the vicious storms in the past 50 years. The environmental damage these storms cause is on par with the destruction wreaked on communities in the region of San Felipe, Las Coloradas, and Ro Lagartos itself. Though few measures can be taken to alter the course or frequency of these hurricanes, better early warning and weather prediction would doubtlessly be a boon to the towns and villages of the region.

Shrinking Forests

One arena in which human intervention could play a pivotal role concerns the health of Ro Lagartos's tropical forests. Because it is bordered by several large communities, the preserve's jungles have come under attack from the logging and farming industries, and over 7,000 acres of these verdant, lush environments have been erased, stripped of their valuable wood and converted into farmland for supporting the surrounding human settlements. Even the stately and precious mangrove forests have not been spared from the greedy saws and axes of the lumber mills, which pay little attention to the long-term survival of the preserve's delicately balanced ecosystem. This is a man-made problem, which could be rectified by placing reasonable constraints on the growth of towns and cities near to the preserve, as well as instituting urban planning to reduce the need for existing communities to sprawl out unimpeded beyond their present boundaries.

Sacrificing the Sea

Not only on land is the Ro Lagartos preserve in danger of being drained of its valuable natural resources. Overfishing in the lagoons and coastal waters is a serious problem that seems to exacerbate with each passing year. Due to the current unfavorable economic climate, many in the region who live close to the line of subsistence as it is have turned to the seas as a source of additional income or sustenance. As a result, over only the past few years, populations of many sea creatures such as clams, mullet, octopus, and milk conch have been dramatically reduced. Some fisherman have even turned to to harvesting their bounty with explosives, an incredibly destructive practice that threatens to tip the balance of the undersea ecosystem just as severely as the process of deforestation endangers its land-dwelling counterparts. As a stopgap, more stringent enforcement of fishing laws and the prosecution of poachers would be a positive step. However, looking to the future, it is clear that a much broader recognition and practice of restraint and respect for the tolerance of the complex web of life under the waves will be the only sure, long-term solution to this problem.

Road Building

Yet another method by which man is unwittingly destroying the Ro Lagartos preserve is through his lack of foresight in constructing new roads. This problem dovetails with the deforestation and overfishing issues, as it is a direct result of unchecked expansion and lack of planning. Roads within and near the preserve, especially those on the coast and in the southern regions, are built without proper drainage, instead making use of perpendicular wave-breaks which alters and disrupt the water's natural pathways through the preserve. This changes the water level in different areas of the preserve, and tips the balance of the salt level within the soil. This in turn puts much of the vegetation, including the mangrove forests, in direct jeopardy. Therefore, when constructing new roads, more attention must be paid heir long-term effects on the ecosystem, and all construction should be planned with a mind towards preserving the natural flow and balance of waterways in the preserve, first and foremost.

No comments:

Post a Comment