Looking For the Crown: involvement of local community to coral reef conservation

Latest update November 25, 2018 Started on January 1, 2018
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Involvement of local community is fundamental to coral reef conservation. Through building community capacity for coral reef monitoring in the Sea of Cortez and Mexican Pacific, we are aim to find and monitor factors affecting the stability of this precious ecosystem. Lets look for crown of thorns starfish and diseases that threat our coral reefs!

January 1, 2018
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Preparation

Arturo Ayala Bocos


AKA "Cocho" or "Bocos"

Is a marine biologist and diver instructor who is ECO manager. He loves dive and is specialist in coral reef fishes, he is amazing identifying and counting them! Arturo has been working on submarine monitoring for many years now and has led many expeditions in México, Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras.

Jenny Carolina Rodríguez Villalobos

Is a marine biologist with a Ph.D in marine ecology, and also a teacher in a local university. She is research director in ECO. She is interested on diseases and any other condition that impair health in corals and other reefs organisms. She is keen on share her knowledge with people and include them on the monitoring of coral reefs status in the American Pacific.

Arturo and Jenny are working on create educational tools such as videos and factsheets aimed to divulgate helpful information for conservation of the ecosystem they love and study, coral reefs.

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Expedition Background

ECO: Ecosistemas y conservación is a non profit organization looking for the conservation of marine ecosystems. One of our main goals is to strength citizen cooperation through permanently capacitation on submarine monitoring.
Coral reefs are in crisis; natural and anthropogenic factors are some of the causes for this situation. In the eastern tropical Pacific, coral reefs are permanently threat by hurricanes, El Niño events and other perturbations. Coral diseases are a problem that is considered one of the major triggers of the deterioration of coral reefs worldwide and the Mexican Pacific, particularly the Sea of Cortez, is not free of coral diseases. We have confirmed that here, coral colonies are affected by many different lesions, originated by predation and disease. Besides diseases, coral mortality here, occurred by predation by the crown of thorns starfish, that is increasing its occurrence, potentially causing a general ecosystem decline with changes in the landscape, public perception, and potential loss of biodiversity in the reef. As in many other areas, our research is limited by logistic and financial issues, that prevent us to have a permanent and continue monitoring program. In order to have better management and conservation of coral reefs, ECO is conscious of the necessity of increasing the spatial and temporal scales of monitoring of the condition of the ecosystem, and so we aim to build community capacity for coral reef monitoring in the Sea of Cortez, with submarine reporters that aware us of the presence of the "crown" and other situations that compromise coral health.

ECO has monitored coral reefs in the Sea of Cortez specifically in the Espíritu Santo Archipelago for more than 20 months, looking for Acanthaster planci individuals and estimating the damage to coral colonies, as the prevalence of predated individuals in the coral communities. Until now, we have measured and characterized the feeding activity of more than 300 starfish individuals.

Since the beginning of the 2018, we have already trained more than 150 people from Baja California Sur, in México to Panamá, in cooperation with National Geographic Society funded projects, in the recognition of lesions associated with biological interactions and disease. With more people able to do underwater monitoring, we have expanded our exploration abilities and have gotten important information regarding coral mortalities associated with the "crown of thorns" starfish and diseases like white syndrome in our coral reefs.

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