The collaboration of academic and private interests has enabled the recovery of a mangrove ecosystem in Tamaulipas that just 15 years ago was thought to be completely lost.
The Arroyo Garrapatas mangrove estuary, a 40-hectare coastal wetland located in the industrial port of Altamira, was severely damaged in the 1970s when state oil company Pemex built a pipeline in the area and effectively interrupted the natural flow of the tides.
A precise mix of fresh and salt water is needed for a mangrove ecosystem to flourish. After the pipeline was installed, the Arroyo Garrapatas mangroves started to die off and disappear.
In 2003, researchers from the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas and the Altamira port authority had been studying options to recover what was left of the mangroves when the answer literally fell into their laps.
Iberdrola, a Spanish electric utility company, was planning to build a thermoelectric power generation plant in the port of Altamira. The facility was to use seawater for cooling, before returning the water to the inner harbor.
The university researchers proposed that the firm discharge the water into the mangrove estuary instead in an effort to restore its salinity and aid the recovery of the ecosystem.
Iberdrola agreed and modified its project to include the necessary tubing that would channel the seawater to the affected area.
The company also assumed the costs of reforesting the mangroves and the follow-up analysis that would monitor the project’s progress.
Since the project was implemented some 73 avian species have been sighted in the Arroyo Garrapatas area and crocodiles have returned and nested there, said Iberdrola environmental biologist Jorge Reynoso.
Endangered plant species, such as the Rhizophora mangle, known as the red mangrove, and Laguncularia racemosa, or white mangrove, have begun to flourish.
Reynoso estimated that between 65 and 70% of the mangrove ecosystem in Altamira has recovered. “We still need to recover fish species, but there exists the possibility of even more mammals and birds arriving.”
“The ecological rehabilitation of this mangrove is unprecedented ,” declared the federal Environment Secretariat in its assessment, adding that the project was an example of joint inter-institutional efforts in favor of environmental preservation.
“Mangroves are a filter and a natural lung, as they absorb gases like carbon dioxide and are able to filter water loaded with pollutants, even heavy metals,” said the environment chief at Iberdrola, Juan Pablo Olvera.
The specialists will continue their surveillance of the Arroyo Garrapatas mangroves, and they are hopeful that in the next decade they’ll be able to report its 100% recovery.
Source: Milenio (sp)