Research activities

Policy and governance mapping

Environmental and development policies in Mexico are multi-levelled and multi-scaled. Both have also changed substantially during frequent transitions in national and regional governments. Subsequently, an important initial activity for the Land2Coast project team will be understanding how these policy areas are structured, by whom, and for what purpose. Our environmental governance experts will map the two policy areas by performing content analysis of policy literature from private and public governing bodies, across scales, supplemented by semi-structured interviews with key actors from state and national institutions.

Santa María Tecomavaca, Oaxaca

Photo credit: Carlos A. Soberanes Gonzáles, CONABIO

Land use assessment

Quintana Roo remains among the most heavily forested regions in the Carribean region, but migration to the region is beginning to drive accelerated urbanization, a transition of terrestrial and coastal areas toward tourism use, and agricultural development. Experience beyond Quintana Roo tells us that all of these shifts are likely to have negative impacts on the marine environment if not managed well. Land2Coast researchers will administer household surveys in inland and coastal settlements, across the state, to help determine the degree to which potential marine impacts are considered by those dependent on the land for their livelihoods. Respondents answers will reveal whether steps are already being taken to minimize and mitigate the worst environmental impacts of land-based activity in Quintana Roo, or if there is a need for policy-makers and natural resource managers to play more of a role in linking terrestrial and marine sustainability initiatives.

Theobroma cacao

Photo credit: Adalberto Ríos Szalay, CONABIO

Marine and coastal impacts assessment

Scientific records for the Quintana Roo coast show a general decline in the health of local coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows over the last 2-3 decades. While we know that much of this is driven by global forces, such as climate change, ocean acidification, and pan-Caribbean overfishing, we also know that land-use activities within Quintana Roo are having an impact on the health of the state’s marine ecosystems. Yet, a timeline for when decreases in water quality and increases in solid waste pollution, among other impacts, began to take hold is little established. Interdisciplinary Land2Coast teams of natural and social scientists will interview experienced individuals in the local fishing and marine tourism industries with the goal of producing a narrative of cause and effect, for both global and local impacts on the marine environment, as far back as the 1960s. As part of this interview program, our researchers will also investigate to what degree local stakeholders’ knowledge of such impacts is being integrated into environmental and land-use management plans by national and state policy-makers. Examples from other coastal regions have shown that integration of ‘lay’ knowledge can be integral in the success of marine and terrestrial conservation efforts.

Holbox

Photo credit: Isaí Domínguez Guerrero, CONABIO

Water use assessment

Research of the impact of land-use on Quintana Roo’s coastal zone requires a focus on the area’s unique underwater rivers, a product of its karstic geology. At the forefront of concerns for local policy-makers, natural resource users, and environmental NGOs is the impact that is had when these water courses eject pollutants from urban areas, agriculture, and hotels, straight onto the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef and its adjacent mangrove forests and seagrass meadows. Overreliance on the Yucatan Peninsula’s aquifer is also driving a drop in the water table and subsequent saltwater intrusion into the terrestrial areas in close proximity to the coast. Social scientists on the Land2Coast team will use the same household surveys they are using to assess land-use patterns to investigate to what extent changing patterns of water use by residents and tourists in Quintana Roo can be considered sustainable, or otherwise.

HBB0034 Chetumal, Quintana Roo.jpg

Photo credit: Humberto Bahena Basave, CONABIO

Assessment of food consumption

Diet is typically a highly cultural experience. Certainly, past residents or Quintana Roo relied heavily on seafood. Using a combination of focus groups and household surveys, the Land2Coast research team will explore to what degree the impacts of land-use on the marine environment have driven change in local consumption patterns. They will also assess whether new dietary practices may further be driving sustainable or unsustainable land-use. The consideration of food consumption in land use and coastal governance is important as it can shed light on how populations conceive connections between lifestyles, livelihoods, and the status of the natural environment.

Panulirus argus

Photo credit: Adalberto Ríos Szalay, CONABIO

 

Ecosystem modelling

To understand how land use and land use change may be impacting the coastal zone of Quintana Roo, it is important to know the potential consequences of terrestrial human-environment interactions in the state’s forested and near-coastal areas. Watershed experts on the Land2Coast team will review primary and gray literature in order to create an ecosystem model of regional flows and connectivity between landscapes and marine systems.