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The Gulf of California

The Gulf of California: Biodiversity and Conservation

Edited by Richard C. Brusca
Foreword by Rodrigo A. Medellín
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Gulf of California
    Book Description:

    Few places in the world can claim such a diversity of species as the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), with its 6,000 recorded animal species estimated to be half the number actually living in its waters. So rich are the Gulf's water that over a half-million tons of seafood are taken from them annually-and this figure does not count the wasted by-catch, which would triple or quadruple that tonnage. This timely book provides a benchmark for understanding the Gulf's extraordinary diversity, how it is threatened, and in what ways it is-or should be-protected.

    In spite of its dazzling richness, most of the Gulf's coastline now harbors but a pale shadow of the diversity that existed just a half-century ago. Recommendations based on sound, careful science must guide Mexico in moving forward to protect the Gulf of California.

    This edited volume contains contributions by twenty-four Gulf of California experts, from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. From the origins of the Gulf to its physical and chemical characteristics, from urgently needed conservation alternatives for fisheries and the entire Gulf ecosystem to information about its invertebrates, fishes, cetaceans, and sea turtles, this thought-provoking book provides new insights and clear paths to achieve sustainable use solidly based on robust science. The interdisciplinary, international cooperation involved in creating this much-needed collection provides a model for achieving success in answering critically important questions about a precious but rapidly disappearing ecological treasure.

    eISBN: 978-0-8165-0275-2
    Subjects: General Science, Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Rodrigo A. Medellín

    Every person should spend at least one night a month out in the open under the stars, to clean his soul of all arrogance.The Silesian poet and novelist J. von Eichendorff wrote these words nearly two hundred years ago, and today—when arrogance seems to rule every aspect of the human universe—they are more true than ever. Our arrogance ranges from delusions of ruling the world, to ignoring what our own alarming findings are clearly screaming at us, to directly destroying that which sustains our life and that of all the planet’s inhabitants—all the while thinking that...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    One cannot visit the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) without recognizing its remarkable and singular nature (color plate 1).¹ The accumulation of species diversity since the Gulf’s opening ~5.6 million years ago has produced one of the most biologically rich marine regions on earth. The coastlines, offshore benthic regions, and pelagic waters of the Gulf are famous for supporting not only an extraordinary biological diversity but also exceptionally high productivity and large populations in all marine taxa: invertebrates, fishes, cetaceans, sea turtles, and birds. Its 6,000recordedanimal species is estimated to represent about 70 percent of theactual...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Origin, Age, and Geological Evolution of the Gulf of California
    (pp. 7-23)

    The present-day topography of the Baja California peninsula evolved through a series of tumultuous geological events that began many millions of years ago (Ma). Between 130 and 90 Ma, during the Cretaceous Period, a sea-floor crustal plate (the Farallon Plate) in the eastern Pacific began to subduct beneath the western edge of North America/Mexico. The plate was being driven northeastward by a highly active rift or sea-floor spreading center, the East Pacific Rise; to the west of the spreading center, the great Pacific Plate was slowly being pushed northwestward by the East Pacific Rise. The Rise itself was also shifting...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Physical, Chemical, and Biological Oceanography of the Gulf of California
    (pp. 24-48)

    The Gulf of California is a dynamic marginal sea of the eastern Pacific Ocean. Today, nutrient input to the Gulf from rivers is very small and has only local coastal effects. The Gulf has three main natural fertilization mechanisms: wind-induced upwelling, tidal mixing, and water exchange between the Gulf and the Pacific Ocean. These natural fertilization mechanisms have made the Gulf of California more resistant to anthropogenic effects (e.g., those due to construction of dams) than are other ecosystems, such as the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Upwelling occurs off the mainland (eastern Gulf) coast with northwesterly winds (“winter” conditions from December...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Reefs That Rock and Roll: Biology and Conservation of Rhodolith Beds in the Gulf of California
    (pp. 49-71)

    Imagine an underwater field of closely packed, purple-pink spheres about the size of golf balls, each composed of numerous calcareous branches radiating out from the center of the sphere. The spheres and hundreds of species of animals and seaweeds living on and in them move with the motion of waves and currents. These spheres are rhodoliths, and beds of these calcareous red algal spheres comprise a rarely mentioned but common habitat in global nearshore environments. Rhodoliths are not generally included in natural history and diving guides. The rhodoliths themselves are attractive because of their color and range of morphologies and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Invertebrate Biodiversity and Conservation in the Gulf of California
    (pp. 72-95)

    An analysis of the Macrofauna Golfo invertebrate database indicates that the Gulf is home to over 4,900 species of named and described invertebrates. This is estimated to be about 70 percent of the actual invertebrate fauna of the Gulf of California. The most poorly known regions for invertebrates are the open sea and the deeper (below the continental shelf) benthic environment. In the intertidal region of the Gulf 2,158 species occur, although only 45 of these are strictly intertidal in distribution. Thirty-six hundred species occur at or above the 30 m isobath, and 4,078 species occur on or over the...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Fishes of the Gulf of California
    (pp. 96-118)

    The Gulf of California has a rich history of exploration and scientific discovery, and its fishes have been an important part of that history. The first major oceanographic expeditions collecting fishes in the Gulf were conducted by the U.S. Fish Commission steamerAlbatrossbetween 1889 and 1911. The ship’s naturalist, C. H. Gilbert, described 168 Gulf fish species as new to science over his career. Numerous other reseachers from around the world contributed to our current knowledge of the systematics of Gulf fishes. To date, over 900 species of fishes have been recorded from Gulf waters, and trends in species...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Importance of Fisheries in the Gulf of California and Ecosystem–Based Sustainable Co–Management for Conservation
    (pp. 119-134)

    The waters of the Gulf of California are well known for their high productivity, which results from a complex array of physiographic and oceanographic attributes. This high year-round productivity supports large populations of sea birds, marine turtles and marine mammals; it also supports important fisheries (industrial and small-scale) of small pelagic fishes, predatory fishes, and jumbo squid. The combination of beautiful coastlines and fishery products of high market value has been a strong attractant for human settlement: the Gulf coastal region is inhabited by 8 million people, and the main economic activities are shrimp cultivation, fisheries, and tourism. The Gulf...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Sea Turtles of the Gulf of California: Biology, Culture, and Conservation
    (pp. 135-167)

    The productive waters of the Gulf of California provide important feeding and developmental habitats for five of the world’s seven sea turtle species. The most abundant species in coastal waters is the green turtle, known locally as the black turtle (Chelonia mydas). The hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) also frequents nearshore waters, although it is more prevalent in the southern Gulf. The olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and loggerhead (Caretta caretta) may also be present along the coast, but these species are more common in the Gulf’s offshore waters. Exploitation of eggs and turtles for food, degradation of marine...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Ospreys of the Gulf of California: Ecology and Conservation Status
    (pp. 168-187)

    The Gulf of California and Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula harbor a large year-round resident population of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). The eastern coast of the Gulf of California also corresponds to a fall migration route for ospreys breeding in the western United States, and from Sinaloa southward it receives an influx of winter residents. The species’ regional diet consists almost exclusively of fish, although it seems ospreys occasionally prey on chuckwallas (Sauromelas) and some seabirds, including young cormorants (Phalacrocoraxsp.) still in the nest. The diet of ospreys has been especially well documented in the Midriff Islands Region...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER 9 Marine Mammals of the Gulf of California: An Overview of Diversity and Conservation Status
    (pp. 188-209)

    Interest in the study of Mexican marine mammals dates from the mid-nineteenth century, a result of their commercial exploitation. Nevertheless, until the 1970s scientific studies of the marine mammals of Mexico were infrequent and mainly limited to occasional observations by American and a few Mexican scientists. Beginning in the late 1970s, the number of reports published on individual species or groups of species in the Gulf of California began to increase substantially.

    The marine mammal fauna of the Gulf is surprisingly diverse, with 36 species representing 31 cetaceans in eight families (Balaenidae, Eschrichtiidae, Balaenopteridae, Physeteridae, Kogiidae, Ziphiidae, Delphinidae, Phocoenidae), four...

  15. CHAPTER 10 A Brief Natural History of Algae in the Gulf of California
    (pp. 210-218)

    The marine algae of the Gulf of California are a diverse assemblage of more than 300 subtropical, tropical, and temperate species that are subject to a diverse range of physical circumstances, including: a wide range of seasonal temperatures, extreme tidal fluctuations (especially pronounced in the Northern Gulf), localized upwelling and other variations in water/ nutrient chemistry, and substrate types (e.g., granite, basalt, sandstone, beachrock/coquina, plus a range of sandy habitats). The biogeographic source areas of the Gulf algal flora include the cooler waters of the Pacific coast of North America and warmer regions to the south. The high summer temperatures...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Ecological Conservation in the Gulf of California
    (pp. 219-250)

    With an immense biological richness and high marine productivity, the Gulf of California (Mar de Cortés, Sea of Cortez) is both a large marine ecosystem of high global conservation priority and a region that faces growing threats—mostly as a result of overfishing and significant degradation of coastal habitats—with 39 marine species listed in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

    The Gulf coastline is a sparsely populated and comparatively affluent region of Mexico. In recent decades, new economic opportunities and depletion of natural resources have led the economy away from its traditional reliance on...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-330)
  18. About the Contributors
    (pp. 331-336)
  19. Index
    (pp. 337-354)