Case study: Cuatrociénegas Wetlands, Coahuila de Zaragoza

Name of the wetland

Cuatrociénegas Wetlands, Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico

Name of the respondent

Tatiana Lobato-de Magalhães

What you have seen in the wetland – state, change, and drivers

The Cuatrociénegas wetlands complex, considered one of the most important wetlands in Mexico, is located in the deserts of Northern Mexico Highlands. Designated as a Ramsar Site in 2002, this ‘Protected Natural Area of Flora and Fauna’ occupies more than 84,347 ha of aquatic ecosystems represented by springs, permanent streams, and flooded areas where the water from the springs is concentrated, locally known as ‘pools’. These blue pools mimic Precambrian ancient sea composition and harbor live stromatolites, a bacterial form of life that once dominated the oceans. A large number of endemic species inhabit Cuatrociénegas wetlands. Although fish have been the most studied, the wealth of invertebrates discovered has increased the list of endemism. The Cuatrociénegas valley region is determined as an oasis from the anthropological point of view. This region was important for several nomadic groups, so it is possible to find some artefacts such as arrowheads and spears. Cuatrociénegas is a unique ecosystem complex that harbors several endemic and endangered species, has a beautiful scenic landscape, and is a crucial water source for people, agriculture, and wildlife.

Los Mezquites River, Cuatrocienégas, Mexico. Photo credits: Tatiana Lobato de Magalhães

Nevertheless, wetland losses and degradation rates are alarmingly high due to this ecosystem face prolonged drought and the extraction of large amounts of aquifer water for agricultural activities. The Cuatrocienégas region is situated in a predominantly arid environment with a karst aquifer that makes water and wetlands management difficult. This region has a complex mosaic of soils with different gypsum contents, ranging from massive, ancient gypsum evaporite bedrock, crystalline selenite, and anhydrite to very recent formations of secondary evaporites, often mixed with other salts, and gypsum dunes. Some natural pools have been destroyed or dried. Current water bodies and vegetation modification, irrigation channel construction, and overgrazing and pasture burning for livestock have contributed as relevant threats for the Cuatrocienégas wetlands.

Cuatrocienégas, Mexico. Photo credits: Tatiana Lobato de Magalhães

Why you took part

As a wetland scientist based in Mexico, I have travelled and worked with wetlands across the country from Southern to Northern wetlands. Cuatrocienégas is a unique wetland in the country, so I expect to contribute with its conservation.

What you hope will come from the survey — Highlighting Cuatrocienégas in this Global Citizen Wetland Survey will be key to show its importance for a large audience, particularly about the role of this fantastic oasis to maintain biodiversity, provide education and recreation (e.g., birdwatching, ecotourism), provide water resources, and for that esthetic, cultural, heritage, and scientific values.