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Five invasive species threaten marshlands

Mexican, Canadian agencies work to preserve Cuatrociénegas wetlands

In the midst of the otherwise dry Chihuahua desert lie the huge Cuatrociénegas wetlands, a marshy area that covers more than 84,400 hectares. But its unique characteristics put it at high risk, not only from climate change but from the extraction of water and the presence of invasive species of flora and fauna.

Located in the northern border state of Coahuila about 80 kilometers northwest of the city of Monclova, the wetlands are part of the Flora and Fauna Protection Area of Cuatrociénegas.

The name means Four Marshes and refers to the countless number of marshes fed by springs and underground water reservoirs, properties that make it the most important marshland in the area.

According to the National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp), climate change might cause a decrease in the flow of water, along with an increase in evapotranspiration, or evaporation and plant transpiration, of surface waters.

While serious by themselves, these phenomena, coupled with the extraction of underground water for human and agricultural use and the introduction and proliferation of invasive species, could result in the complete loss of the marsh habitat.

To address the concerns, Conanp, in coordination with the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation (FNCN) and the Canadian government agency Parks Canada, has developed a control and eradication program designed to remove five exotic invasive species from the area.

Those species are African jewelfish, blue Tilapia, giant cane or reed, Guatemalan fir and tamarisk, or salt cedar, and their presence destabilizes the ecosystems in which they are found, according to Conanp’s José Bernal Stoopen.

Such species are accidentally or intentionally released and often become invasive due to their adaptability and the absence of natural predators, he said.

“In the end, due to their characteristics, invasive species displace their local counterparts.”

Conanp says the Guatemalan fir and the salt cedar are aggressive colonizers that adapt easily to different environments. The trees are heavy consumers of water and can dry out marshes and flooded areas.

The blue tilapia, for its part, carries parasites and ailments to which local species are not resistant, while the African jewelfish  competes directly for habitat with the endemic mojarra.

Source: Reforma (sp)

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