The Yucatán’s mangroves, an ecosystem vulnerable to climate change effects

There were some dire warnings at the Fifth National Congress on Climate Change Research, where experts noted the importance of the preservation of mangrove swamps and the already present threats that climate change represents for the whole Yucatán Peninsula.

Lecturer Jorge Herrera Silveira, a researcher at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in Mérida, said the peninsula is the most vulnerable zone to the effects of climate change in Mexico.

“One of the main issues is that the different levels of government don’t really acknowledge [the effects of climate change]. They do talk about it in their speeches, but there aren’t really any effective actions,” Herrera told the congress, held last week in Cancún.

Mangrove view near Telchac Puerto, Yucatan, (photo by Johan Siebols,

The fourth largest mangrove area in the world is found within Mexican territory, and Herrera believes that alone should be reason enough to reinforce the legal protection of the mangrove ecosystems instead of loosening it.

“It is a known fact that mangroves are the most efficient ecosystems — by surface area — in capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Every time a mangrove is cleared, the level of greenhouse gases released can surpass those released by a town or small city.”

There is worse, continued Herrera: the release of methane gas. “When a mangrove is cleared, not only is biomass lost, but methane is released, making the effects of climate change more intense,” said the researcher.

Mangroves are also beneficial as shelter and breeding grounds for marine and bird species. They filter contaminants from water before it reaches the sea and serve as natural hurricane barriers, while also helping in the regulation of the temperature of the ocean.

Mangroves in Quintana Roo (Photo: Google)
Mangroves in Quintana Roo (Photo: Google)

During the same congress, Cinvestav masters student Mariana Ávila López warned that due to the increase in temperatures in the state of Yucatán — which can reach 40 to 45 degrees C — the presence of noxious mosquitoes is also expected to increase.

These conditions will exacerbate the risk of diseases such as dengue or chikungunya fevers, which have already become a serious health issue, along with zika, an illness with similar symptoms and transmitted by the same kind of mosquito, Aedes Aegypti.

Ávila said mosquitoes have become resistant to the nebulized insecticides normally used to control them. “People will have to include repellents in their daily routines, just like sunscreen or deodorant. Humanity didn’t learn the easy way, we will have to do it the hard way.”