Joining land and sea, new proposal for science at Cabo Pulmo


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Last week Drs Ben Wilder, Adrian Munguia and Andrew F Johnson met with foundation representatives from Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula to discuss a new project proposal that integrates both land and sea around the Cabo Pulmo National Park (CPNP) to continue efforts started under the 2013 BRIT, N-Gen, and UC MEXUS biodiversity survey.

Team meeting with BCI
Team meeting with BCI

Cabo Pulmo The Cabo Pulmo National Park has been firmly established for almost 20 years and its success in recovering fish biomass and diversity has been well documented. The land around Cabo Pulmo, however, benefits from no such protection and is at threat from unregulated development. The new project aims to highlight the importance of the land:sea interface by mapping the areas both in and around the CPNP. On the land, scientists from N-Gen will use flying camera-drones and satellite images to provide a high resolution map of the land surrounding CPNP. On the marine side, scientists from the Gulf of California Marine Program (GCMP), Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Echology UK will map the seafloors of CPNP as well as the deep canyon at the south side of the park. This work will involve high-tech acoustic and underwater cameras to draw a picture of the seafloor habitats in the area.

Layers Once the researchers have a land:sea map the real work begins. Each team will begin adding layers to the map that describe the abundance, distribution and biomass of species that exist in each area. This will involve detailed transect surveys (by foot on land and by flipper in the sea) noting all the species encountered en route. This is no small feat but once the data is collected, for the first time, scientists will have a detailed habitat and species map of this highly diverse and important area on the Baja California Peninsula. Vulnerability Dedicated to applied science, the research team is keen to connect the best science to decision making for coastal areas. Once all of the data has been collected and collated, researchers will then highlight areas of particular biological importance on the map. For instance, this could be an area with a very rare plant species like Bidens cabopulmensis or a reef of particularly high fish biomass such as El Bajo (click here to explore the El Bajo reef). The team also aims to incorporate modeling techniques and use the map as a predictive tool. An example of this may be predicting the effects of pollutants flowing downstream from potential developments in the arroyos (streams) around Cabo Pulmo. This will allow the team to answer questions such as: how far will the waste run off travel into the sea and which other adjacent areas might be vulnerable (using particle tracking oceanographic models). The final land:sea planning map will guide any designations of this land, from extensions of the national park to future development plans. The project will draw from and aim to strengthen the community driven conservation at Cabo Pulmo that has now become an outstanding example of community participation and effective conservation.

What’s next? During the week of meetings with funders and collaborators and further getting to know the beautiful desert land and sea, the research team had a chance to listen to many suggestions and answer questions regarding the project. This week has strengthened the team’s ideas and brought more collaborators on board. It’s an exciting and productive time that will provide some interesting and much needed results in order to further the conservation efforts in and around Cabo Pulmo. Keep your fingers crossed for more interest and financial support for the project and we will keep you posted through the GCMP and N-Gen website. 


If you have any questions regarding the project please contact Andrew F Johnson (  

(Thanks go to the Baja Coastal Institute for organizing, funding and hosting the meeting)

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