Jan 29, 2021

From the brink of Extinction to Abundant Little Ones

The sixth wave of mass extinction is fast and voracious.  However, in December we carried out our first field survey, in one of our reserves, of an endemic species of magnolia recently discovered in 2015 (Magnolia rzedowskiana). This species is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as Endangered (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/82782448/82783726).

There is a lack of detailed information about this magnolia species. Our population survey found that there are approximately 1,662 individuals in the reserve.  It also allows us to see how the population structure has changed and will change over time.

When the reserve was newly created, in 1996, the old cloud forest was under heavy anthropologic threats from an authorized program of forest management (legal logging), as well as illegal logging, and foraging by livestock. These activities left the area in severely degradated state. There was no understory and therefore no natural regeneration of the existing species (oaks, cedars, and of course the magnolias).  So, the first priority was to build fences that would keep the neighbors´ livestock out and protect the few magnolias that had survived decades of degradation.  And while a change was evident from the beginning, it was not documented in any way. Now the numbers speak for themselves.

Our team found that approximately 100 “relic” specimens, with diameters of 20 cm or greater have served as ´seed trees,´ giving way to a 1108% rate of natural regeneration.  The majority of the trees measured have heights of 1, 2 and 3 meters and diameters less than 4 cm.  These are the saplings that have grown thanks to effective and timely conservation in the field that has brought a species back from the brink of extinction.

Our work continues…

In order to avoid further reduction in this and the Magnolia pedrazae populations, and prevent the extinction of these species, we have more work to do.  In the future we will conduct a census wherein each individual tree will be georeferenced to allow for the monitoring of their individual growth and health. We will also survey populations of  Magnolia pedrazae, which was also recently scientifically described, and is in danger of extinction, https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/67513587/67513803.

In our current times, when we are increasingly feeling severe shocks from our human caused climate disruption, this is tremendously good news.  We have shown evidence of the effectiveness of our work in the field, which will help us to secure additional areas for biodiversity conservation.  In the Sierra Gorda, we say NO to extinction. 

Dec 21, 2020

2020 Environmental Education at home

The environmental educational program carried out 26 Earth Festivals during the month of February and in the first days of March and held community meetings to engage the community in conserving our green patrimony.  We had planned to hold reforestation activities in school yards and with communities this year, but because of the COVD-19 with schools closed, we only performed reforestation activities with communities. 

Thanks to our partners Earth Day Network, we were able to deliver 30,000 trees to 58 communities.  The trees delivered included; White Cedar, Red Cedar, Ash, Jacaranda, White leadtree, Pink poui, Chinaberry Tree, Privet, Mexican fan palm, Miniature date palm, Bottle palm.

We have continued to do outreach to children and young people even though schools are closed, by providing materials to teachers, who send weekly homework packets home with parents.  These have included posters featuring pollinators and biodiversity coloring books with the flora and fauna of the Sierra Gorda.

We have also painted eight murals related to preventing forest fires, saving water, caring for birds and biodiversity, run weekly radio programs, and published to social media in order to raise awareness of how privileged the 100,000 of us are to live here, in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve.  And the need to respect this natural protected area, and our personal responsibility to prevent forest fires. 

Our objective is to make communities aware of our shared natural wealth and all of the services green areas provide; counteracting global warming, producing food, providing bird habitat, improving water capture and creating microclimates.

We are grateful to Earth Day Network for their support and to you all for helping us reach communities during this unprecedented year.  

Oct 1, 2020

New species found in the Sierra Gorda, once again!

With the arrival of the rainy season, we were able to stop worrying about forest fires and focus our efforts on monitoring and protecting the reserves.  We are working on the maintenance of our fences in the most distant parts of the reserve and interacting with our neighboring landowners.  After an initial shaky start to the rainy season, this September brought abundant rain, ending the dry spell that persisted in 2018 and 2019.  The rivers and streams and waterfalls are following which means fauna in the various reserves have ample access to water.  Vegetation is also recuperating from the long drought.  This is especially evident in the area affected by the great fire of 2019, of the Hoya Verde reserve where we are seeing abundant regeneration of oaks and pines.

New growth can also represent additional combustible material in the next fire season (in 2021) which is why we are planning and coordinating to have a strong unified front with the same members of the firefighting brigade this coming year.  We project having them operational during the 4 most critical months of the dry season.

Fortunately, despite the pandemic, the monitoring and the protection of the reserves have not been interrupted.  This is because in many cases the monitoring is undertaken by individuals, alone, or by a group of park rangers, who can easily maintain a safe distance from one another.

Our hidden cameras caught captures of pumas, pacas, brocket deer, and collared peccary since our last report when we sent images caught on tape of a black bear and a jaguar.

We have the honor of announcing that in one of the reserves we found a healthy and robust population of two species new to science, the cactus Mammillaria rzewdowskiana (with a highly restricted distribution), a true daughter of our limestone mountains, and a new agave, Agave muxii.  It never ceases to amaze us year after year, we keep finding new species in the Sierra Gorda.  We see clearly that our reserves are islands of biodiversity of the highest value.  That we have an enormous responsibility to protect them at all costs.  In the Sierra Gorda, we say NO to the massive wave of extinction that is decimating life on our planet.  We thank you on behalf of this vast voiceless biodiverse community for your support and generosity. 

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