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Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change


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The objective of this chapter is to offer a short but comprehensive overview of the Yucatán Peninsula, its karstic landscapes and soil types. In this chapter, we will also provide insights regarding Maya nomenclature associated with these physical characteristics. We include information on the hydrology of the Yucatán Peninsula (principally geohydrology) and regional climatic patterns (ITCZ, the North Atlantic and teleconnections). From this point of reference, we will explain the peculiarities of the peninsula, including a brief description of the origins of its vegetation distribution. Following this, we will present a paleoenvironmental and historic framework with a cultural focus, together with information on the uses and management of the natural resources by the Maya while explaining modifications of their environment. We will then include an analysis on global change based on data from the IPCC (Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change) related to drivers of climatic change in the region such as deforestation, forest fires, hurricanes and changes in sea level. We will explain how these factors have influenced the loss of biodiversity and contributed to global change.
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Gerald Alexander Islebe · Sophie Calmé
Jorge L. León-Cortés · Birgit Schmook
Biodiversity and
of the Yucatán
Gerald Alexander Islebe Sophie Calme
Jorge L. Le
´sBirgit Schmook
Biodiversity and
Conservation of the Yucata
Gerald Alexander Islebe
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur ECOSUR
Chetumal, Quintana Roo
Sophie Calme
´de Sherbrooke
Sherbrooke, Que
Jorge L. Le
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur ECOSUR
San Crist
obal de las Casas, Chiapas
Birgit Schmook
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur ECOSUR
Chetumal, Quintana Roo
ISBN 978-3-319-06528-1 ISBN 978-3-319-06529-8 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-06529-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015951833
Springer Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
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Printed on acid-free paper
Springer International Publishing AG Switzerland is part of Springer Science+Business Media
1 Introduction: Biodiversity and Conservation of the Yucata
Peninsula, Mexico ...................................... 1
Gerald Alexander Islebe, Birgit Schmook, Sophie Calme
and Jorge L. Le
Part I Physical Setting and Vegetation
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook
on Global Change ...................................... 9
Nuria Torrescano-Valle and William J. Folan
3 Distribution of Vegetation Types .......................... 39
Gerald Alexander Islebe, Odil
on Sa
Mirna Valde
´ndez, and Holger Weissenberger
Part II Plants and Environment
4 Vegetative and Reproductive Plant Phenology ................ 57
Mirna Valdez-Herna
5 Physiological Ecology of Vascular Plants .................... 97
Mirna Valdez-Herna
´ndez, Claudia Gonza
Casandra Reyes-Garcı
´a, Paula C. Jackson, and Jose
´Luis Andrade
6 Bee–Plant Interactions: Competition and Phenology of Flowers
Visited by Bees ........................................ 131
Rogel Villanueva-Gutie
´rrez, David W. Roubik,
and Luciana Porter-Bolland
7 Natural and Human Induced Disturbance in Vegetation ........ 153
on Sa
´nchez, Gerald Alexander Islebe,
Pablo Jesu
´s Ramı
´rez-Barajas, and Nuria Torrescano-Valle
8 Conservation and Use ................................... 169
Juan Manuel Dupuy Rada, Rafael Dura
´n Garcı
´a, Gerardo Garcı
´Arellano Morı
´n, Efraim Acosta Lugo, Martha Elena Me
´lez, and Marı
´a Andrade Herna
Part III Fauna
9 Diversity and Eco-geographical Distribution of Insects .......... 197
Jorge L. Le
´s, Ubaldo Caballero,
and Marisol E. Almaraz-Almaraz
10 Large Terrestrial Mammals .............................. 227
Rafael Reyna-Hurtado, Georgina OFarrill, Cuauhte
´moc Cha
Juan Carlos Serio-Silva, and Guillermo Castillo-Vela
11 Amphibians and Reptiles ................................ 257
Pierre Charruau, Jose
´Rogelio Cede~
´zquez, and Gunther K
12 Birds ................................................ 295
Sophie Calme
´, Barbara MacKinnon-H, Eurı
´dice Leyequie
and Griselda Escalona-Segura
13 Subsistence Hunting and Conservation ...................... 333
Pablo Jesu
´s Ramı
´rez-Barajas and Sophie Calme
Part IV Ecosystems and Conservation
14 Transverse Coastal Corridor: From Freshwater Lakes to Coral
Reefs Ecosystems ...................................... 355
´ctor A. Herna
´ndez-Arana, Alejandro Vega-Zepeda,
Miguel A. Ruı
´rate, Luisa I. Falc
opez-Adame, Jorge Herrera-Silveira, and Jerry Kaster
15 Forest Ecosystems and Conservation ....................... 377
Luciana Porter-Bolland, Martha Bonilla-Moheno,
Eduardo Garcia-Frapolli, and Swany Morteo-Montiel
Index ................................................... 399
x Contents
Chapter 2
Physical Settings, Environmental History
with an Outlook on Global Change
Nuria Torrescano-Valle and William J. Folan
Abstract The objective of this chapter is to offer a short but comprehensive
overview of the Yucata
´n Peninsula, its karstic landscapes and soil types. In this
chapter, we will also provide insights regarding Maya nomenclature associated with
these physical characteristics. We include information on the hydrology of the
´n Peninsula (principally geohydrology) and regional climatic patterns
(ITCZ, the North Atlantic and teleconnections). From this point of reference, we
will explain the peculiarities of the peninsula, including a brief description of the
origins of its vegetation distribution. Following this, we will present a paleoenvir-
onmental and historic framework with a cultural focus, together with information
on the uses and management of the natural resources by the Maya while explaining
modifications of their environment. We will then include an analysis on global
change based on data from the IPCC (Intergovernamental Panel on Climate
Change) related to drivers of climatic change in the region such as deforestation,
forest fires, hurricanes and changes in sea level. We will explain how these factors
have influenced the loss of biodiversity and contributed to global change.
Keywords Geohydrology • Soils • Modern climate • Historical climate •
Biogeography • Vegetation • Maya culture • Global change • Yucata
´n Peninsula
N. Torrescano-Valle (*)
Departamento Conservaci
on de la Biodiversidad, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur Unidad
Chetumal, Avenida Centenario km 5.5, Apartado Postal 424, CP 77014 Chetumal, Quintana
Roo, Mexico
W.J. Folan
Centro de Investigaciones Hist
oricas y Sociales, Universidad Aut
onoma de Campeche, Av.
Universidad s/n entre Juan de la Barrera y Calle 20 Col. Buenavista, CP 24039 San Francisco
de Campeche, Campeche, Mexico
©Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
G.A. Islebe et al. (eds.), Biodiversity and Conservation of the Yucat
an Peninsula,
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-06529-8_2
2.1 Geology and Hydrology
One of the most outstanding features of the Yucata
´n Peninsula (YP) is that it is a
calcareous platform with great heterogeneity in its geological gradients, and the
combination of geomorphological, climatological, hydrological, edaphic and eco-
logical factors that have promoted the development of a particular type of biodi-
versity, resulting in a distinctive biogeographical unit. This unit corresponds to the
Mexican States of Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucata
´n, as well as small areas of
Chiapas and Tabasco, the Department of the Peten in Guatemala and the northern
part of Belize (Miranda 1958; Barrera 1962; Ibarra-Manrı
´quez et al. 2002).
The YP had its origin with the breakup of the supercontinent of Pangaea during
the Triassic, around 250 million years Before Present (My BP). During this period,
the position of the YP was close to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and North Africa. It
was during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods that the YP experienced rotation
that moved it in its present geographical location (Coney 1982; Burke 1988). The
limestone, dolomite and anhydrite rocks that constitute the uppermost layer of the
karstic platform of the YP are Mesozoic and Cenozoic (between 250 and 66 My BP)
and rest upon 350 My BP crystalline and sedimentary rocks of the Paleozoic Era
(Perry et al. 2003). The geologic origin of the YP, however, is frequently referred to
as being recent (145-65 My BP), due to deep accumulations of carbonates and
evaporates during the Cretaceous that were products of the shallow seas wherein the
submerged YP was located. These deposits gave rise to the limestone, dolomites
and gypsum that characterize the present day YP (Coney 1982; Bautista
et al. 2005a).
The actual geomorphology and hydrology of the YP have resulted from various
events that occurred near the end of the Cretaceous and during the Paleogene. The
10-km bolide impact that created the Chicxulub crater some 65 My BP, also gave
rise to conditions that resulted in the ring of cenotes in northeastern YP, together
with the movement of the Caribbean Plate (Back and Hanshaw 1970; Burke 1988;
Hildebrand et al. 1991,1995). During the Eocene (50-20 My BP), folding of rock
strata with eastern and northeastern movements of the plate created the system of
faults that form the major subterranean water channels that exist today. The Ticul
Hills and the channel of the Rı
´o Hondo River were formed during the Miocene and
Pliocene (20-4 My BP) epochs due to displacements of the Caribbean Plate in two
directions (NW-SE and NE-SW, Perry et al. 2003; Bautista et al. 2005a). Figure 2.1
shows the principal geomorphological characteristics of the Yucata
´n Peninsula and
the ages of the geological deposits. The karstic platform that forms the YP covers
about 300,000 km
, the most recent layers (dolomites and evaporites) are about
1500 m thick. The karstic aquifer of the YP is distributed by means of a system of
caverns that is the largest in the world. The largest of these subterranean water
reserves is situated on the eastern boundary of the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve,
which covers 165,000 km
. This Biosphere Reserve is a World Heritage Site
(UNESCO) and part of the Ramsar Convention on wetlands (, Another important water source to the north is associated with
10 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
the ring of cenotes. In general terms, the system occurs across a network of faults
(Figs. 2.1 and 2.2) and is supplied by rains that occur along an increasing gradient
that runs from North to South (Perry et al. 2002; Gondwe et al. 2010; Bauer-
Gottwein et al. 2011). The depth of phreatic aquifer varies considerably along the
coast, it can be at less than 10 m depth while in the central region of the YP, it can be
more than 30 m below the ground surface (Marı
´n et al. 2005). In reality, this zone
can be at the ground surface along the coast and at more than 80 m depth in the
interior. Other major hydraulic features of the PY are griekes, i.e., structural cracks
that are associated with karstic landscapes and with the pre-hispanic urban area of
Edzna, Campeche. Matheny (1976) suggests that the Maya people in Edzna took
advantage of these “canals” and modified the cracks by widening them close to
domestic units (homes). They were thus described by Matheny et al. (1983)as
canals that drained the city center, but Doolittle (2006) has suggested an alternative
interpretation, viz., that the Edzna valley is a polje or a depression in the rock massif
Only a few superficial bodies of water exist on the YP. In southern Campeche,
the Palizada, Candelaria and the Champoton rivers form part of the watershed of the
Usumacinta river, as well as several lagoons. Laguna Chichancanab is in Yucata
bordering on the limits of Quintana Roo and the Hondo River in Belize and the
system of the Bacalar Lagoons. Various lagoons are also associated with the ruins
of Coba (Folan et al. 1983; Leyden et al. 1998). Although, numerous aguadas exist
throughout of the YP. Aguadas are small bodies of water that are principally fed by
rainwater; some are formed by topographic depressions that are at times lined with
clay (Gonza
´lez-Medrano 2004). These natural depressions are commonly seen
Fig. 2.1 Geology and altitude of Yucata
´n Peninsula
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 11
within archaeological sites, their water storage capacities were reinforced by
inhabitants of these Maya settlements. During our investigations (Domı
Carrasco et al. 1996) in the archaeological site of Calakmul, all of the aguadas
that were tested by us were lined with either potsherds or limestone set in mortar.
Cenotes (sinkholes) are one of the most typical and recognizable karstic features
of the YP, distinguished by their conical and circular forms. Mylroie et al. (1995)
mention that cenotes are similar in formation (origin and form) to the Blue-Holes of
the Bahamas and similar aquatic features in Florida. They are known for their
cultural significance among the Maya. Their name is derived from the Maya term
tzonot, which signifies a water-filled opening in the ground forming a subterranean
cavern [Pearse (1936) is the primary source on cenote formation]. Cenotes are
formed by rainfall, through the vertical dissolution of rocks (dolines) and by the
dissolution of rocks in the subterranean zone. In the latter case, it is common for the
surface rock or the cavern roof to collapse, thereby exposing the sinkhole at the
surface. Cenotes are of varying diameter and depth due to the movement of
subterranean water and the degree of dissolution of the rock. Steinich and Marı
(1997) mapped over 7000 cenotes, but Bauer-Gottwein et al. (2011) have men-
tioned that it is difficult to know the total number of cenotes in the YP, due to large
numbers that are likely hidden by dense vegetation and that are attributable to
geologic processes, which occurred in the past. What is clear, however, is that most
are found close to the northern and eastern coasts of the YP.
Fig. 2.2 Water bodies, main water run off (seasonal water currents) and Cenotes of Yucata
Peninsula. Map made from Red hidrogra
´fica, 1:50000, 2.0 edition, INEGI 2010
12 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
The coastal hydrology of the YP has experienced changes in sea levels, which
were higher during the Pleistocene Epoch (2.6 My to 12 ky BP) as a result of
glaciers and interglacial periods. During the last glacial maximum (LGM) when sea
levels were lowest that the modern (ca. 130 m), the marine platform was exposed
and subject to erosion and sedimentation of deltas, thereby initiating the develop-
ment of coastal lagoons and systems of caves (Day et al. 2012). During the early
Holocene Epoch, even lower sea levels than modern (ca. 3 m) allowed complete
development of coastal lagoons and systems of caves through the accumulation of
carbonates (Bautista et al. 2005a; Smart et al. 2006). The grottos or caves exhibit a
great variety of geological features. Diverse deposits contain a complex mixture of
cultural and fossil deposits, such as the cave of Balancanche, which is near Chichen
Itza (Andrews 1970; Marı
´n et al. 2005). On the northeastern coast, it is possible to
find other karstic expressions such as semicircular caves that are associated with
springs, resurgences and beaches created by the dissolution of carbonate rocks that
are associated with aquifers.
Given the morphology and heterogeneity of the YP, Bautista et al. (2005b)
devised a classification of geomorphological landscapes that were based on their
morphogenetic, hydrologic and atmospheric surroundings. The resulting classifica-
tion of 36 geomorphological landscapes emphasizes features of altitude, marshy
plains, river currents, coastal areas, and the accumulation of quaternary sediments,
together with high and low elevations on topographic relief and the degree of
karstic evolution (Bautista et al. 2005b). Gates (1992), Domı
et al. (2012), and Folan et al. (2000,2014,2015) have characterized the Karstic
Mesoplano Calakmul to the south, as a bridge that connects the Peten of Guatemala
(basin in northern) with the Yucata
´n Peninsula of Mexico. The bridge ranges in
elevation from 80 to 400 m asl, and spans a distance of about 250 km. This bridge
was very important during the Maya Preclassic (2000 BCE-250 CE) and Classic
periods (250-950 CE), the relief and elevated regions were vital characteristics for
the commercial relationships the Maya and construction of their impressive
2.2 Soils and Their Classification
The soils of the YP are characterized by their high calcium carbonate (CaCO
contents. Because of its coralline origins, the most common soil belongs to the
Leptosols (FAO 2015). It is also possible to find Vertisols, Luvisols and Gleysols
(FAO 2015). Leptosols are limited in depth either by layers of hard rock 25 cm
below the soil surface, or by overlying material containing CaCO
. In the latter
instance, the CaCO
equivalent of the material is >40 % within 25 cm of the
surface, or <10% (by mass) of the fine earth fraction (particles <2 mm in dia.) to
a depth >75 cm, without diagnostic strata other than a mollic, ochric, umbric,
yermic or vertic horizon. One of the most distinguishable features of all soil types
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 13
in the YP is color, which is closely related to the nutrient and organic matter content
niga et al. 2003,2004; FAO 2015).
The soil layer is shallow across most of the YP platform. In some regions, it is
practically absent, resulting in almost complete exposure of the bedrock. Evapora-
tion, dilution, infiltration of subterranean water and the replacement of subterranean
water, and the nature of limestone have a fundamental role in the formation of YP
soils. In the northern YP, it is possible to observe this process, in that it is common
to find two layers of calcite with low magnesium concentrations, where the upper
layer is almost 3 m of impermeable calcreta with a layer of sascab (Maya, “white
earth”; unconsolidated calcite) without cement. It is on these two Mio-Pliocene
layers that a layer of quaternary soils have formed, which range from a few
centimeters to no more than 1 m in thickness. In some zones, the calcreta has
fractured and formed a mixture of materials (Perry et al. 2009). It is in the aguadas
or karstic depressions that one can find large soil accumulations, the low perme-
ability of which is associated with ejecta deposits originating from the Chicxulub
meteorite impact. These aguadas are distinguished by their clay-like consistency
and low hydraulic permeability (the emptying takes weeks or months). Ejecta
deposits are also found in Southern Quintana Roo and Belize (Gondwe et al. 2010).
According to the classification of the World Reference Base for Soil Resources
of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (WRB/FAO/
UNESCO), 13 Orders of soils can be found in the YP. These are Lithic Lepstosols,
Rendiz-Leptosols, Cambisols, Luvisols, Vertisols, Gleysols, Regosols, Solonchaks,
Phaeozems, Histosols, Solonetzs, Nitisols, and Casta~
nozems. The types of soil that
is most commonly found on the YP are Leptosols (Table 2.1). From of the fertility
point of view, soils of the YP can be divided into two groups. One group of shallow
black litosoles that somewhat cover rocky outcrops perhaps similar to those found
in the ruins of Dzibilchaltun, Yucata
´n. And another are deep red rendzines in
slightly low relief (Isphording 1984; Shang and Tiessen 2003). The basic compo-
sition of both soil types includes organic residues, limestone, amorphic metallic
oxides, secondary minerals and some stratified minerals, such as illites, talc and
chlorite (Isphording 1984).
The ancient agricultural activity carried out by the Maya in the YP is associated
with their extensive knowledge of the soils and their fertility, as has been recog-
nized by various authors (Barrera-Bassols and Zinck 2003; Barrera-Bassols and
Toledo 2005; Barrera-Bassols et al. 2006). Barrera-Bassols and Toledo (2005), for
instance, mention that there are currently more than 80 terms in Maya that are
related to the characteristics of these soils, together with a classification of 30 types.
Table 2.1 lists the principle soils that have been identified on the YP, their
equivalents in Maya nomenclature, and their distributions.
14 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
Table 2.1 Soils types for Yucatan Penı
´nsula according WRB and Maya classification
Soil type WRB
Soil type Maya
classification Characteristics Extension in YP
Leptosols Chaltun
Stoney surface
Very thin soils less than
5 cm thick rich in
organic material. Bed-
rock is located immedi-
ately below almost
visible on the surface.
These soils are not used
for agriculture
North of the YP
Leptosol LPca,
Lithic Leptosol
Rocky soils
These soils are dark
brown, rich in gravel,
calcareous rock and
even bedrock. They are
very thin measuring
more or less 20 cm. They
are rich in organic
material with good
drainage with pH some-
what alkaline. They are
frequently used for agri-
culture. They can be
associated with Chak
luum Akalche and
Puus luum
Principally in the
northeast and northwest
of the YP, but present
in all the YP
Lithic Leptosol
LPli, Chromic
Leptosol LPcr
Chak luum
Chak means “red” and
luum “earth”, “red
A red soil with little cal-
cium carbonate. They
include iron. The clay
contains a mixture of
haldisita montmorillon-
ite. They are somewhat
clay-like. They are up to
60 cm deep, but not rich
in organic materials. It is
rich in secondary min-
erals with a thickness
that favors the growth or
cultivated plants. This
soil is associated with
Puus luum, Tskel and
On the line between
Yucatan and Quintana
Roo, some sites in the
central and the southern
part of Quintana Roo
Leptosol LPrz
Puus luum
Puus means “dust” and
luum “earth”, “loose
soil with rocks”
The color is black to
dark grey. It is 0.30–
0.60 cm thick distributed
over calcareous bedrock.
It contains organic
material and carbonates
in a very fine soil with
efficient drainage and a
pH that is slightly alka-
line. It is a fertile soil
Principally in the cen-
ter, south and southeast
of the YP
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 15
Table 2.1 (continued)
Soil type WRB
Soil type Maya
classification Characteristics Extension in YP
utilized for agriculture.
It is associated with Ak
alche, Yaax hom,
Tsekel and Chak luum
Leptosol LPrz,
Leptosol LPhk
Boox luum
Boox means “dark or
black” and luum
“earth”, “dark earth”
Similar to Puus luum,
soils rich in organic
material and carbonates,
the surface stones are
0.5 cm–10 cm and retain
moisture. In comparison
to the chak luum soils,
they are considered to be
richer in micro nutrients,
phosphorous and nitrates
Found in all the YP but
they are reported prin-
cipally in the north
Leptosol LPrz
Chich luum
Chich, small frag-
ments of stone luum
Deep soils that retain a
great quantity of humid-
ity (water). They are
dark in color and contain
a low proportion of
Reported for the north-
ern YP
Luvisol: Chro-
mic Luvisol
Kan kab
kan means “yellow”
and kab “earth”, “yel-
low earth”
These soils are found in
Karstic valleys with a
brownish red to a yellow
color due to its chromic
content. It is rich in clay
due to the mixture of
kaolinite-halosite, rich
in iron oxides and alu-
minum with a slightly
acidic pH. It is associ-
ated with Chak luum
and Tsekel and is con-
sidered suitable for
It is found in small
zones of Yucatan,
Campeche and
Quintana Roo
Vertisols Yaax hom
Yaax means
“Green”and hom
“depression”, “low-
lands with ever-green
It is a dark grey or red-
dish maroon very deep
clay soil that does not
contain rocks. The clay
is montmormonite, the
pH is slightly alkaline.
These soils are found on
soft calcareous rock with
moderate, slow drain-
age. The internal drain-
age is moderate. In the
low areas, there are pro-
cesses of oxide reduc-
tion, associated with
It extends principally in
the center and south-
west of the YP fre-
quently associated with
the edges of bajos. Fol-
lowing the lepto soils, it
is the soil type most
amply extended. It is
considered to be excel-
lent for agriculture
16 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
2.3 Modern and Historical Climate
The climate of the YP is characterized by its heterogeneity, particularly with respect
to precipitation. The east coast and the basin of Laguna de Terminos (southwest)
receive 1400 millimeters per year (mm/year) and decreases towards the northwest
to 1000 mm/year (Fig. 2.3). The east coast is the most extensive humid region with
1200–1500 mm/year (Orellana et al. 2009; INEGI 2013). Two seasons are identi-
fied each year: a dry season, and a wet season, in the winter months occur incursions
of Arctic air. Between August and September, a relative minimum of precipitation
occurs, which is known as the midsummer drought (canicula). Temperatures vary
by half a degree to a degree across the YP (25.5–26.75 C). This is a synthetic and
simplified description of the climate of the YP; however, climate is a dynamic and
highly complex system that is controlled by the scales of time and space. Different
climate patterns emerge over months, years, centuries, and millennia; moreover,
local and regional climatic patterns act with different magnitudes. Also, it is
important to identify the events that influence short (regional) and long distance
Table 2.1 (continued)
Soil type WRB
Soil type Maya
classification Characteristics Extension in YP
Puusluum, Kankab and
Gleysols Akalche
Akal means “water
body” and che “tree”,
“low lying terrains
with seasonal
The upper level is dark
grey or black and in
accord with its depth
reaching a grey or a
green/grey horizon due
to gleyzitation from a
depth of 15 cm that
occurs during a period of
flooding from June to
November. The pH is
slightly acidic with an
adhesive consistency
caused by the montmo-
rillonite clays that form
fissures when they dry.
The surface horizon is
rich in organic material
but in the lower part it is
poorly represented. The
internal and surface
drainage is slow. It is
associated with Yaax
hom, Puus luum and
It extends toward the
south central part of the
YP. It supports the type
of vegetation associ-
ated with bajos
References: Bautista et al. (2005a,b), Sa
´nchez and Islebe (2002), Sedov et al. (2007), IUSS Work
Group WRB (2007,2014), INEGI (2003)
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 17
(global) like teleconnections (Gunn and Folan 1992;Sa
´n et al. 2006).
The teleconnections are clime patterns that occur principally in North Atlantic
(e.g. North Atlantic Oscillation) and South Pacific (e.g. El Ni~
no/South Oscillation),
derived from atmospheric and marine interactions. Which consist in oscillations
and variations in Sea-Surface-Temperature (SST), atmospheric pressure and air
To understand the climatic gradient in YP, it is necessary to know about the role
of various factors in climatic behavior, such as temperature, rainfall, humidity,
winds, cloudiness, and solar radiation, and geographic factors, such as latitude,
altitude, relief, marine currents and the distribution of land and water. Given this, it
is important to detail the origins of climate types in the YP and their histories. First
one has to address the major interaction and connecting mechanisms between the
atmosphere-sea-land that influence and determine precipitation. (1) Inter-tropical
Convergence Zone (ITCZ), the so-called “Meteorologic equator,” is a frontier
between a dry pattern and wet pattern located 5N of the equator, due to the
asymmetry that is produced by changes in sea temperature. This frontier of low
pressure and cloudiness that is caused by the convergence and connectivity of the
hot and humid Trade Winds and Hadley Cell circulation, convective wind system
that distributes humidity across tropical regions (Me
´ndez and Maga~
na 2010).
The ITCZ determines patterns of precipitation across the YP during the summer
months (May–October), when it migrates to the north. The zone also determines the
occurrence of the dry season (November–April) when it migrates to the south
(Gunn and Folan 2000; Stahle et al. 2012; Marshall et al. 2014). (2) Anomalies or
Fig. 2.3 Climate types and precipitation distribution across the Yucata
´n Peninsula. Map made
from: Climas, 1:1000000, INEGI 2011
18 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
changes in Sea-Surface-Temperature (SST), as well as changes in atmospheric
pressure and air masses that occur in the South Pacific and North Atlantic influence
provokes variation in the magnitude and occurrence of the teleconnections El Ni~
South Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), respectively.
Climate is influenced by these anomalies, which affect the transport of the marine
currents, such as the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), and atmosphere
transport by means of the Subtropical Jet Stream. The rains that are provided by the
winter storms, which are called nortes (November–February), are the product of
masses of cold air from Canada and the United States that interact with variability
in the Pacific (ENSO and Tropical Jet Stream). The canicula or mid-summer
drought that occurs between July and August is also associated with this variability
(Gunn and Folan 1992; Garcı
´a2003; Poveda et al. 2006; Stahle et al. 2012). These
teleconnections determine droughts or wet conditions along the annual cycle
(during a year), but can have influence for several years and decades (Me
and Maga~
na 2010). (3) Other patterns that are similar to the “warm pools” (areas of
water warmer than 28.5 C with a interannual fluctuations and intensity significant)
in the Eastern Pacific, and zones of high pressure in the Atlantic and Pacific, are the
Atlantic cyclones or depressions that are directly related to distinct meteorological
phenomena (Wang and Enfield 2001; Garcı
´a, 2003). In addition to atmosphere-
marine patterns, latitude and elevation are fundamental geographic features that
determine climate. Most of the YP is located within the tropics and has elevations
that do not exceed 400 m between 17 and 21N and 86–92W. Latitudinal position
assigns a tropical climate to the YP, while the low elevations offer almost direct
access the hot and humid Trade Winds.
As a result of the different interactions between global, regional and local
climatic factors, also of geographic factors; originate a gradient of temperature,
humidity and precipitation across of YP. Each gradient or area is called climate
type. The principal climates for the YP are: Most of the YP experiences
Aw ¼tropical subhumid climate with summer rains and a dry winter. An
Am ¼tropical humid climate with summer rains and a relatively dry winter, present
in the south in the southeastern portion of the peninsula and the Island of Cozumel.
ABS¼with a short rainy season during the summer, between a very dry and
subhumid, characterizes the northern coast. The positioning of the ITCZ above
northern Yucata
´n results in a hot, dry type climate (BS) in this zone (Ibarra-
´quez et al. 2002). These types of climate have nine subtypes related to local
variations, according to Orellana et al. (2009). Figure 2.3 shows not only the
climate types, but also the isotherms and isohyets of precipitation.
The YP climate has varied over the last 10,000 years (Holocene) due to the
influence of solar activity on the diverse climatic patterns that have already been
mentioned, eustatic changes in sea level, and human impacts (Coe 1994; Hodell
et al. 1995; Torrescano-Valle and Islebe 2006). During the early Holocene, climate
conditions were likely characterized by high levels of precipitation and by high
levels in lakes. A subsequent dry period was observed in paleoenvironmental
records from marshy areas, which mark a transition to tropical forest around
8600 years BP (Islebe et al. 1996; Whitmore et al. 1996; Leyden et al. 1998).
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 19
Consistent with diverse sources of information (proxies), it was during the Middle
Holocene when the modern gradients of temperature and precipitation were
established (Curtis et al. 1996; Leyden 2002; Torrescano-Valle and Islebe 2006).
The coastline of the Mexican Caribbean was established prior to 3800 years BP, as
were the levels of continental lakes (Hodell et al., 2000; Leyden 2002; Torrescano-
Valle and Islebe 2006,2012). The palaeoecological data for the Late Holocene
show interference for climatic interpretations, due to relationship between land-
scape and Maya culture. The crop signal suggests the distribution of a large
population during this period. The called “climatic deterioration” is manifested in
reductions in precipitation and long periods of drought (various centuries) that are
not comparable with the Early and Late Holocene (Gunn et al. 1994; Hodell
et al. 1995; Leyden et al. 1996; Haug et al, 2003; Hodell et al. 2005;Mu
et al. 2009; Carrillo-Bastos et al. 2010). It is during the Late Holocene (ca. 3000–
1000 years BP) that records indicate not only the end of the construction of Maya
civic/ceremonial centers, but also the abandonment of great cities such as Calakmul
(850 AD) and Tikal (830–850 AD). The contribution of environmental change,
particularly the pronounced droughts of the ninth Century, which can be related to
the demise of the Maya Late Classic, has been suggested and documented based on
diverse studies from different sources (Folan 1981; Folan et al. 1983; Gunn
et al. 1994; Haug et al. 2003; Hodell et al. 2005; Carrillo-Bastos et al. 2010;
Medina-Elizalde and Rohling 2012).
2.4 Biogeography and Vegetation
Mexico is located between the Holarctic and Neotropical biogeographic realms,
i.e., it is found between two regions with different environmental histories. The
organisms that comprise these realms have differents histories of origin and distri-
bution. The geographical location between North America and Meso America, is
fundamental for the origin of its high biodiversity. The biogeographic analyses for
the YP have been carried out for more than 70 years. Stand out the phytogeographic
work of Lundell (1934), and the biogeographic work of Barrera (1962), based on
endemic species of flora and fauna respectively.
´quez et al. (2002) mention the importance of the flora in
establishing biogeographic regions, their contributions in the phytogeographic
subdivision of the YP, has allowed to recognize as a biogeographic unit. Also
mention during several decades many authors have recognized its standing as a
geographical, climatic, geomorphologic and biogeographic unit, but the informa-
tion was insufficient. The YP has been distinguished principally for by its high
percentage of endemic tree species (72 species), together with its characteristic type
of soils, climate, physiography, orography, hydrogeology and fauna. Data gathered
from different various studies have demonstrated the underlying similarity in the
floras of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucata
´n, together with
northern Guatemala and Belize. This unity also shows a strong relation with
20 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
Mesoamerica. The floristic results are not surprising, given the close geographical
proximity of these political entities; nor is a weak relationship with Antilles
unexpected, given increasing distance from the rest of Mesoamerica (Ibarra-
´quez et al. 2002; Espadas-Manrique et al. 2003).
In general, it is estimated that the floristic richness of the Mexican portion of the
YP includes about 2300 species, which are distributed among 965 genera and
161 families that are either native or not found to exist in the wild. Only one
monotypic genus is endemic in the Mexican collection, Plagiolophus (Asteraceae).
The genera Goldmanella (Asteraceae) and Asemnantha (Rubiaceae) are also found
in Belize and Guatemala; the first genus remains monotypic (Goldmanella), while
the second has been subsumed into Chiococca.
As a biogeographic unit, the YP includes 203 endemic taxa. The Euphorbiaceae,
Fabaceae and Orchidaceae have the largest number of species. The diversity of flora
is low in proportion to the size of the YP territory, but endemism is high, given that
the YP represents 5.7 % of the country of Mexico. The flora includes an Antillean
component and two unique vegetation types: low-statured, low flooded semi-
evergreen forests that are known as bajos, and flooded areas that are associated
with mangroves known as petenes (Ferna
´ndez-Concha et al. 2010).
´ndez-Concha et al. (2010) mention that the flora of the YP is still little
known in biogeographic terms, given the very recent descriptions of Attilaea abalak
E. Martinez & Ramos, a new genus and species in the Anacardiaceae (Martı
´nez and
Ramos-Alvarez 2007) and to new species, Zephydranthes orellanae Carneval,
Duno & J.L. Tapia; (Carnevali et al. 2010) and Hohenbergia mesoamericana I.
´rez, Carnevali & Cetzal (Ramı
´rez-Morillo et al. 2010). Another notable aspect
of the flora is the scarcity of gymnosperms (1) and native ferns (0). Taxonomic
richness is considered to be low, considering that the YP covers a wide territory
within the tropics. Ferna
´ndez-Concha et al. (2010) briefly explore the causes for
low taxonomic richness, including the peninsulas geological origins and historic
processes. They also explore the hypothesis that was first proposed by Gentry
(1988) and Whittaker and Field (2000), who detail the influence of latitude and
water-energy balances. They further stress the importance of topographic relief
(mountains, valleys, hillsides and ravines), when combined with seaward and
windward exposure, in creating microsites that are not present in the YP.
According to the classification of Miranda and Hernandez-X (1963), which is
based on physionomic and phenological criteria and numerous studies conducted in
the region, the principal types of vegetation found in the YP are: low deciduous
forest; low semi-deciduous forest, with columnar cacti; low and medium semi-
deciduous forest; high, medium and low semi-evergreen forest; high evergreen
forest; savannas; palm groves; mangroves; coastal dunes; popales;tulles; and reed
beds. Table 2.2 describes these types of vegetation.
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 21
Table 2.2 Vegetation types for Yucata
´n Peninsula
Vegetation type Description
Seasonally dry tropical forest. Low
deciduous forest
It is distributed in the north and northwestern part of
the PY. This forest sets on shallow superficial soils
with large rock outcrops in the form of bedrock and
large stony areas. It is extremely arid with 800 mm of
rain a year and between 7 and 8 months of drought.
The trees loose practically all their leaves during the
dry season and grow to heights less than 10 m. The
species that characterize this forest are: Bursera
simaruba,Caesalpinia gaumeri,Acacia pennatula,
Metopium brownei,Gymnopodium floribundum,
Jatropha gaumeri,Havardia albicans,Mimosa
bahamensis,Alvaradora amorphoides,Sideroxylon
obtusifolium,Caesalpinia yucatanensis
Seasonally dry tropical forest with
columnar cacti. Low deciduous forest
This is a variant of the seasonally dry, tropical forest
characteristic of the northwestern part of the PY. It is
developed on shallow soils with large rock outcrops
in the form of bedrock and large stony areas in
extreme aridity with 600-800 mm of rain per year
and between 7 and 8 months of drought. The trees
loose practically all their leaves during the dry sea-
son and reach less than 10 m in height. The large
amount of rocky areas is notable and permits the
formation of microniches. In addition to the species
characteristic of this type of forest one can find the
following endemic plants: Mammillaria gaumeri,
Beaucarnea pliagilis,Guaiacum sanctun,
Pilosocereus gaumeri,Nopalea gaumeri,Nopalea
inaperta and Pterocereus gaumeri
Medium forest and low semi-deciduous
The canopy reaches a height of 8–25 m. Between
50 and 75 % of the trees lose their leaves during the
dry period with precipitation between 1000 and
1200 m. The most common species are: Vitex
gaumeri,Brosimum alicastrum,Piscidia piscipula,
Enterolobium cyclocarpum,Ceiba pentandra,
Sideroxylon foetidissimum ssp. gaumeri,Caesalpinia
gaumeri,Cedrela odorata,Alseis yucatanensis,
Astronium graveolnes,Pseudobombax ellipticum.
The associations are dominated by: guayaca
(Guaiacum sanctum), xuul (Lonchocarpus
yucatanensis), jaabin (Piscidia piscipula), jobillo
(Astronium graveolens) and despeinada (Beucarnea
High and medium semi-evergreen forest This type of forest is the one most amply distributed
in the the PY. The height of the arboreal layer is 20–
35 m. Around 25–50 % of the trees lose their leaves
during the dry period of the year. The range of
precipitation is between 1100 and 130 mm. The most
dominant and characteristic specie is Manilkara
zapota, other species are: Brosimum alicastrum,
Pimienta dioica,Lonchocarpus castilloi,Pouteria
22 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
Table 2.2 (continued)
Vegetation type Description
campechiana,Swietenia macrophylla,Alseis
yucatanensis,Zuelania guidonia,Cedrela odorata,
Swartzia cubensis. They are found associated with
ramonales (Brosimum alicastrum), zapotales
(Manilkara zapota), corozales (Orbignya cohune),
pukteales (Bucida buceras), and the bayo
(Aspidosperma cruentus and A. megalocarpon)
Low flooded semi-evergreen forest This type of forest corresponds to what are known as
“bajos” that develop in seasonally flooded areas with
soils slightly permeable called “akalche” that are
found all over the PY. Fifty percent of the trees lose
their leaves during the dry season every year. Rain-
fall is between 1100 and 1300 mm. The canopy
reaches heights of 8–10 m. The typical species are:
Cameraria latifolia,Acacia pringlei,Dalbergia
glabra,Pisonia aculeata,Pithocellobium dulce and
Pseudophoenix sargentii. The presence of ferns and
epiphytes are common. It is possible to find associ-
ations with: tintales (Haematoxylon campechianum),
pukteales (Bucida buceras), chechenales (Metopium
brownei), mukales (Dalbergia glabra), and tasistales
(Acoelorrhaphe wrightii)
High evergreen forest This forest is located in southern Campeche, north-
ern Guatemala and Belize. The precipitation reaches
between 1500 and 2000 mm. The height of the can-
opy reaches 30–60 m. The soils are rich in organic
matter and are well drained. Vines and lianas are
common as well as the following species: Terminalia
amazonia,Dialium guianensis,Vochysia
hondurensis,Calophyllum brasiliense,
Aspidosperma cruentum,Brosimum alicastrum,
Pouteria campechiana,Licania platypus,Swietenia
macrophylla,Manilkara zapota,Alseis yucatanensis
and Zuelania guidonia, as well as others
Savannas These are found mixed with low flooded semi-
evergreen forest. The herbaceous layer is dominant
while the tree level does not reach more than 10 m
high, giving a stunted effect. The density of the trees
is variable. The dominant herbaceous species are the
Poacea and Cyperacea that are resistant to fire.
Southeastern Quintana Roo is characterized as being
very humid with acidic soils where its possible to
find Pinus caribaea,Myrsine cubana and Morella
cerifera. In southwestern Campeche, Trachypogon
and Curatella americana, are common and probably
of an introduced origin. In Guatemala and Belize are
found: Quercus oleoides,Pinus caribaea. As char-
acteristic tree species there are: Byrsonima
crassifolia,Acoelorraphe wrightii,Cresentia cujete,
and Curatella americana
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 23
Table 2.2 (continued)
Vegetation type Description
Pine forest In Guatemala and Belize it is common to find these
trees mixed in with savannas. The dominant species
are Pinus caribaea and Pinus oocarpa. Another
small zone of distribution exists in southeastern
Quintana Roo
Palm groves These are found in almost pure patches generally
distributed in areas close to the east and west coast of
the PY and areas close to lagoons and the Hondo
River. The species that make up these groups are:
amongst others: corozo (Orbignya cohune), tasiste
(Acoelorraphe wrightii), jawuacte(Bactris
mexicana), xiat (Chamaedora seifrizii), chiit
(Thrinax radiata), huano (Sabal yapa), huano kuum
(Cryosophila stauracantha), kuka (Pseudophoenix
sargentii), as well as others
Mangroves They are found in all the coastal areas of the
PY. There are variations including the height of the
canopy that are directly related to the type of soils in
which the communities are developed. The short
mangroves do not grow to more than 1.5 m wherein
are some zones of Campeche and Tabasco they can
reach 10 m. The distribution and abundance of the
specie is subject to flooding and salinity. The typical
species are: Rhizophora mangle,Avicennia
germinans,Laguncularia racemosa and Conocarpus
erectus. In the Sian Kaan reserve, Petenes and
Celestun, one finds circular formations of mixed
mangrove and forest that have been referred to as
“Petenes” related to rising pools of fresh water.
Species of medium subevergreen forests such as
Manilkara zapota,Gymnanthes lucida,Bravaisia
berlanderiana,Sabal yapa, as well as others make up
these formations
Coastal Dunes These dunes are found behind the beaches due to an
association of halofita adapted to high concentrations
of salt located in the coastal fringes restricted to
sandy and rocky soils. The typical species are:
Ageratum littorale,Ambrosia hispida,Batis
marı´tima,Chysobalanus icaco,Coccoloba uvifera,
Suaeda linearis,Suriana marı´tima and Tournefortia
Popales, tulles and saibal These are found under special soil and
geomorphologic conditions with soils almost per-
manently saturated such as aguadas, rejolladas
(koop) and cenotes. One could find formations of
herbaceous dominance such as the Tulles (Typha
angustifolia), popales (Poaceae), and saibals
(Cladium jamaicense). Some variants include trees
such as tasiste (Acoelorraphe wrightii), and cork
24 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
2.5 Maya Culture and Landscape
One of the aspects most readily recognized in Maya culture is its adaptation and
interaction with the physical surroundings, which is manifested in its long-term
establishment (3000 years) and its sustainability over the centuries. Consequently,
great population nuclei could develop, which according to various estimates (Folan
et al. 2015), were of much greater extent and size than current population centers.
Different types of cultivation techniques, forest management practices, and elabo-
rate water distribution and retention techniques (Gates 1992; Folan et al. 2015),
demonstrate the great understanding that the Maya had of their environment,
together with an extensive knowledge of engineering. In spite of this degree of
technological sophistication, the diverse periods of instability that the Maya expe-
rienced (Gunn et al. 1994) have been recognized as being closely linked to the
variability of their environment and to other factors (Dunning and Beach 2000;
Aimers and Iannone 2014).
One problem that has yet to be discussed is identifying the initial period of
agriculture in the Maya Lowlands (Lohse 2010). Dating is complicated by the
nature of the sediments in various sites that permit only poor preservation of
evidence. Yet there is strong evidence that agriculture began 8000–6200 years BP
on the watershed of Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific Balsas River, where the
archeological deposits have permitted better preservation (Pohl et al. 2007;
Matsouka et al. 2002; Buckler and Stevens 2006; Sluyter and Dominguez 2006;
Buckler and Stevens 2006). Recent studies that were carried out in northern Belize
(Rosenswing et al. 2014) provide a possible date of ~6700 years BP for cultivation
in the Maya Lowlands, while others have estimated more recent dates of 5400, 4600
and 4000 BP (Pohl et al. 1996; Wahl et al. 2007; Beach et al. 2009; Siemens 2011).
Maya subsistence is based on an integral use of resources. The most common
system was slash-and-burn agriculture (shifting cultivation) and the use of terraces,
such as those documented in the Peten Campechano (Turner 1983; Morales-L
1987), and a system of ridges (raised fields) in humid areas (Siemens 1983). Family
orchards enhance the diet of the inhabitants with the production of fruit-bearing
trees or vegetable gardens (Folan et al. 1983). The knowledge of vegetable
resources was widespread; it is estimated that there were more than 300 plant
species within this production system (Barrera-Bassols and Toledo 2005). Various
Table 2.2 (continued)
Vegetation type Description
(Annona glabra) as well as cacao trees in Coba,
Quintana Roo
References: Miranda and Hernandez-X (1963), Pennington and Sarukha
´n(1998), Sa
et al. (1998), Martı
´nez and Galindo-Leal (2002), Dura
´a and Me
´lez (2010),
Ek-Diaz (2011), Carnevali et al. (2010), Folan et al. (1983), Brokaw et al. (2011). For more detail
see Chap. 3
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 25
authors recognize that forest agriculture was an important activity in diverse zones
of the YP. One example is the characterization and classification of ten types of
vegetation and six successional stages by the Maya. Another example is the diverse
mono-specific patches of species, such as Maya nut or breadnut (Brosimum
alicastrum Sw.), allspice (Pimienta dioica,[L.] Merr.) and cohune palm (Attalea
[¼Orbingnia]cohune Mart.), which do not correspond to the natural distributions
of the forests that have been identified (Folan et al. 1979;G
omez-Pompa, 1987;
Rico-Gray and Garcı
´a-Franco 1991). Other complimentary activities were the
gathering of edible plants (in all types of tropical forest), hunting and trapping,
raising of ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata Cuvier) apiculture and fishing.
The transformation of the landscape is a key to trying to understand the survival
of large groups that developed principally during the Classic Period when Maya
populations were at their highest levels. A population model that was proposed by
Santley (1990) indicates demographic differences in various regions of the Maya
area. This model corresponds with the process of regionalization proposed by
Dunning and Beach (2000), based on their adaptive agricultural systems.
A clear example of landscape transformation is the pre-hispanic urban center of
Calakmul, Campeche. A >30 km
in area, Folan et al. (2000,2015) mention that
Calakmul was a larger metropolis than Tikal, with more than 6125 structures and
some 120 stelas. Based on 30 years of investigation, Folan and his colleagues have
argued that Calakmuls geographic location, its climate including precipitation, and
its landscape including its relief and vegetation, provide many advantages. In
principal, it maintained a strategic relationship in commerce and the production
of goods such as worked shells from the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and Pacific
Ocean (Villanueva-Garcı
´a n.d.). The size and influence of the territory acquired by
Calakmul was made possible by the support of many tributary and allied centers
such as Oxpemul, La Mu~
neca and Becan, along with Cancuen (Demarest
et al. 2011) and La Corona (Canuto and Barrientos 2013) to the south. It has also
been recognized that it was through political relationship with major centers such as
Copan, Edzna and Coba that Calakmuls stability was maintained for a long period
of time. Both Gates (1992) and Folan et al. (2015) offer an environmental expla-
nation for Calakmuls success. The discovery and analysis of the relief and geo-
morphological development of the karst in southern central Campeche and northern
Guatemala suggests a region that has been named the Karst-Mesoplano, crossed by
the Laberinto Bajo. The dynamic hydrology of the northern and southern regions of
the Karstic Mesoplano are not the same, which favors significant differences in the
productive nature of the soils and the processes of erosion. The north-central region
of the Mesoplano is formed by an anticline, while the south is a syncline, as
described by Gates (1992), Domı
´nguez-Carrasco et al. (2012), and Folan
et al. (2015). Given that different adaptations and migration from south to north,
and vice-versa (Yucatecano), and from east to west (Cholano) (Josserand 1975)of
the Karst Mesoplano occurred in different phases the Preclassic and Classic
Periods, the management and control of soils was planned and efficient, thereby
providing adaptations to climate variability, including extreme events such as
26 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
droughts (Aimers and Iannone 2014). These advantages of Calakmul likely were
key to its survival and political stability over many centuries.
In a manner similar to the Calakmul model, occupational and demographic
models have been developed for other Maya regions that have been mentioned by
Santley (1990). These models demonstrate variation in the adaptive responses of
the inhabitants, with periods of stability and instability that were related to climatic
and political changes. Soil fertility and control of erosion presented constant
challenges, as demonstrated by terraces in several sites that are located up and
down the anticline (Morales-L
opez 1987). Without a doubt, however, the most
valuable resource was water. The management and conservation of this resource
was fundamental for Maya survival. Evidence of this is to be found in the archi-
tectural design of buildings, the network of canals and chultunes (cisterns) that
captured and stored water, and the formation of aguadas (Domı
´nguez-Carrasco and
Folan 1996; Dunning and Beach 2000; Folan et al. 2014; Gunn et al. 2014; Lucero
et al. 2014).
In addition to understanding the notion subsistence of the region, which is
understood to be the minimum requirements that are required for population
survival, but is a concept that is closely related to the use of land and natural
resources, another line of major investigation has been to understand its cultural
collapse through the perspective of the environment. On one hand, we have diverse
paleo-environmental evidence (oxygen isotopes, pollen analysis, titanium content,
and stalagmites) that has revealed reductions in precipitation that had resulted in
droughts experienced over the last 3000 years, principally during the Late, Termi-
nal and Postclassic Periods, where these events were most prolonged (Folan 1981;
Gunn et al. 1994; Islebe et al. 1996; Medina-Elizalde et al. 2010; Aimers and
Iannone 2014; Torrescano-Valle and Islebe 2015).
Has been strongly discussed about the magnitude of the environmental effects of
deforestation carried out for milpa formation, cooking and lime production (for
architecture) during nine centuries, principally during the Late Classic Period.
Effects of deforestation on the microclimate, hydrology, the evapotranspiration
of bodies of water, such as aguadas and lagoons, the erosion of soils and the loss of
soil moisture have been identified in diverse Maya sites (Beach et al. 2008). The
analysis of sediments including geochemical analyses, sedimentation and aggrada-
tion rates, bulk density plus other characteristics, has revealed evidence of erosion
caused by agricultural activity. However, it is recognized that there exists a strong
and combined influence of climatic and environmental change in the paleoenvir-
onmental records (Wahl et al. 2007; Beach et al. 2008; Aimers and Iannone 2014;
Torrescano-Valle and Islebe 2015). The same line of investigation was pursued in
demonstrated how subsistence agriculture was possible during the Classic Period
(Scarborough et al. 2014).
Johnston (2003,2006) analyzed fallow periods and the productivity of soils
in the Maya Lowlands, concluding that the initial slash-and-burn system for
preparing a milpa required long fallow times of 10–20 years, to be modified until
arriving at a model called “prolonging the cultivation” (two continuous years of
agriculture). This Johnston model was based on a revision of the conventional
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 27
tropical-ecological model and the model of primitive agriculture evolution that was
proposed by Boserup (1965). The lengthening of cultivation time brought about the
gradual reduction of fallow times in cultivated areas. The milperos (agriculturalist,
farmers) removed the undergrowth (slash) before it could produce seeds, while
incorporating the debris into the soil to maintain moisture levels and nutrient
availability. Under this modified system, increased time and energy was required
on the part of the milperos. Which subsequently affected levels of consumption of
the entire population.
2.6 An Outlook on Global Change
Understand the history of climate change in the Yucata
´n Peninsula, is the main
objective of Paleoenvironmental studies. Identify the responses of vegetation and
changes in water systems, helps to explain the implications for human subsistence.
The establishment of environmental change scenarios, should cover the past,
present and future. Most importantly are the implications for human existence,
plus the management and conservation of natural resources. In short, we have to
understand the past relationship between Maya culture and the environment to help
us establish future scenarios of environmental and climatic change in the YP. -
Human-influenced modifications of climatic patterns has been a strong theme of
debate in recent decades. The fifth report of the IPCC (2013), which amasses the
most recent scientific evidence related to observed climate change, confirms that
human influence has affected the heat balance of the atmosphere and oceans, as
well as the global water cycle, reduction in snow and ice, sea level rise, and changes
of some extreme climates. Additionally, the report emphasizes the direct effects of
human influence as trigger principal cause of climatic warming since the twentieth
The scenarios and projections elaborated by scientists of the IPCC are based on
paleoenvironmental and current data. These allow the attribution and differentia-
tion of previous changes to human activities. The use of paleo-data by the IPCC
provides a global benchmark against which future environmental changes in the YP
can be predicted and assessed: increments of 1–2 C are predicted for the mid-
twenty-first Century. (from 2046 to 2065) and 1–4 C increases for the end of the
century (2081 and 2100). In the case of sea level, the IPCC estimates increases
between 0.24 and 0.30 m for mid-century and 0.26–0.82 m for the end of the
century. Changes in ocean circulation, particularly in the Atlantic Meridional
Overturning Circulation (AMOC), are likely to diminish in velocity and magnitude,
thereby affecting the interchange between cold and warm water currents. An
increase in the frequency and magnitude of droughts is also projected. The fre-
quencies of high level cyclones or hurricanes are projected, including extra-tropical
events. The models also project a decrease of up to 12 % in precipitation levels by
mid-century, as well as great increases in the force and the quantity of precipitation
28 N. Torrescano-Valle and W.J. Folan
over short timespans, i.e., hours or days (torrential rains), rather than continuous
rains last for several weeks.
Paleoenvironmental, historical and instrumental evidence have shown extreme
climatic events in the YP, mainly hurricanes and droughts (see Chap. 7). Droughts
have caused frequent human disasters in the YP and are well recorded. Instrument
records only cover the last century (Me
´ndez and Maga~
na 2010), but they provide
key information for the development of models. Detailed historical records cover
the last five centuries, which allow the development of drought time series (Men-
doza et al. 2006,2007). Paleoecological data provided evidence on different scales
(millennial, century and decadal), mainly for the last 4000 years (Islebe et al. 1996;
Hodell et al. 2001; Medina-Elizalde and Rohling 2012; Torrescano-Valle and
Islebe 2015).
According to Me
´ndez and Maga~
na (2010) protracted droughts were recorded in
Mexico during the twentieth Century, which were related to SST anomalies, the
Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the multi-decadal Atlantic Oscillation
(MDA). Those climatic events caused great economic and material damage, and
the death and forced migration of many people (Delgadillo-Macı
´as et al. 1999).
Mendoza et al. (2006,2007) analyzed the frequencies of drought between the
sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. By using time series and the Palmer Drought
Severity Index, they were able to identify a higher frequency of droughts during the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries compared to the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. Particular dry years were 1650, 1782 and 1884. The data reveal some
conspicuous cycles, principally with lengths of 1–7 years, but other cycles lasted
40 and 70 years.
Droughts showed a relation with the global pattern ENSO, and Atlantic
Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The Little Ice Age occurred during the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries, which caused a considerable temperature decrease at
higher latitudes, and the subsequent loss of farmland, famines, epidemics and the
deaths of thousands of people. Similar human disasters were recorded for the YP for
the same time period (Mendoza et al. 2007).
Paleoenvironmental records document a decrease in precipitation over the last
3000 years. These records from the late Classic Maya Period (800-1000 CE) are of
particular interest, due to the possible role of diminished rainfall in the cultural
collapse. Data from Lake Chichancanab and Lake Punta Laguna have yielded
evidence of multiple droughts between 750 and 900 CE, with extreme events in
882, 986 and 1051 CE (Hodell et al. 1995; Curtis et al. 1996). Records from
stalagmites in the northern YP estimate 40 % precipitation reductions (Medina-
Elizalde et al. 2010; Medina-Elizalde and Rohling 2012), while fossil pollen
suggests 20 % reductions in precipitation (Carrillo-Bastos et al. 2013).
Orellana et al. (2009) developed climate change scenarios and projections for the
year 2020, based on climatic records between 1961 and 1990. GCM (HADCM3,
GFDL-R30, CGCM2 and ECHAM4) were used to develop climate scenarios, based
on recommendations by the IPCC. GCMs include data on atmosphere, ocean, ice
cap and surface process interactions, and estimate variation in these components to
develop scenarios under different conditions. Temperature scenarios yield no
2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 29
consensus, but all models agree with an increase in the range of 0.75–1.25 C, with
extreme temperatures to the Gulf of Mexico. Precipitation scenarios also provided
no consensus, but show an amplitude of precipitations of lower precipitation
(northern YP), and forecast a reduction in mean annual precipitation between
0 and 200 mm/year.
In short, the YP has experienced numerous episodes of drought over the last
2000 years, resulting in human disasters and strong economic losses. As we have
mentioned these drought events are well documented. Based on historical and
paleoenvironmental registers, and scenarios developed by Orellana et al. (2009).
It could be assumed that those drought events will be the most likely challenge to
human well being and biodiversity in the YP. The increase records and data to
related with climate changes and environmental changes, it is urgent to decrease the
vulnerability of the YP.
The IPCC not only reports projections of climate changes, but also a diverse
range of risks and their effects: Increases in temperature of 1 C are likely to place
unique cultural systems and ecosystems at a high risk of loss. Many species with
limited adaptive capacities may be lost. The extreme climatic events will put high-
risk communities and human populations at a greater disadvantage in high-risk
areas. Widespread displacement and migration of human populations that is caused
by heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation and flooding is projected in coun-
tries currently undergoing development, which we are currently witnessing in
Africa and the Americas. There exists a high risk in terms of the loss of biodiversity
and impacts on the global economy. Changes in the climate system and in ecosys-
tems could be abrupt and irreversible. The latest reports of the IPCC (2014a,b) have
included the themes of impacts, adaptation, vulnerability and mitigation. The
objective of these reports has been to establish scenarios of change that are brought
about with human intervention (mitigation) and without it for societies and for the
environment over both short-and medium-periods of time. These point to the
importance of government actions through their institutions and laws as well as
the society in general. The least complex and generalized conclusion is that if we do
not act rapidly on all levels, the changes that our climatic system, environmental,
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and understand important changes that drove the collapse of great cultures, such as
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2 Physical Settings, Environmental History with an Outlook on Global Change 37
... El ecosistema marino y costero en la PY es considerado como un sistema modelo para procesos de dispersión y conectividad de larvas y especies, así como estudios ecológicos y de paisajes con características únicas . La región se caracteriza por una combinación de factores geomorfológicos, hidrológicos, edáficos y ecológicos que resultan en el desarrollo de tipos particulares de ecosistemas, entre los que se destacan, los manglares, lagunas costeras, zonas de pastizales y arrecifes de coral (Enriquez et al., 2010;Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). ...
... Debido a las características del suelo, los recursos hidrológicos son únicos; no existen ríos en la región y el acuífero de la península se distribuye mediante un sistema de canales interconectados de agua subterránea. El agua dulce es descargada a lo largo de la costa a través de manantiales y lagunas costeras (Hernández-Arana et al., 2015;Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). ...
... En la costa norte, en el estado de Yucatán, se encuentra el Anillo de los Cenotes, asociado al meteorito al cual se le atribuye la extinción de los dinosaurios y cuyo centro se ubica en la comunidad de Chicxulub (pequeña villa de pescadores perteneciente al puerto de Progreso, ver Fig. 2.2). En los bordes del anillo, en el área terrestre, se localizan una alta densidad de cenotes y en su área marina, se ubican manantiales submarinos que dan origen a zonas de alta productividad (Schmitter-Soto et al., 2002;Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). ...
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Las pesquerías de pequeña escala (PPE) integran sistemas naturales y socio-económicos altamente complejos, diversos y dinámicos; estas características han dificultado históricamente la evaluación y gestión de este sector. Aunque las PPE han recibido mayor atención en años recientes a través de iniciativas internacionales que promueven evaluaciones y manejo integral, estas prácticas aun no son comunes globalmente, especialmente en países en vías de desarrollo. En un intento por abordar dicha complejidad, esta tesis tiene como objetivo analizar las PPE de la Península de Yucatán (PY), México, bajo un enfoque transdisciplinario en el contexto de actividades de pre-captura, captura y pos-captura teniendo como objetivos: a) identificar la complejidad de las PPE y contrastar a través de una tipología diferencias entre comunidades, b) identificar actores y sus interacciones dentro de la cadena de valor (CV) de la pesquería de pulpo y c) identificar las características que influencian la gobernabilidad del sistema pesquero. La estrategia de investigación usada en esta tesis fue dividir el estudio en tres secciones abordando las siguientes preguntas: i) ¿Existen atributos heterogéneos de las PPE en las comunidades pesqueras que comparten recursos y formas de manejo semejantes?; ii) ¿cómo se estructura la CV de la pesquería de pulpo de la YP y qué tipo de arreglos sociales y de mercado existen? y iii) ¿qué factores definen la gobernabilidad de las PPE en la PY? Las preguntas se atendieron usando tres marcos analíticos: análisis tipológico de las pesquerías en 22 comunidades pesqueras, análisis de cadena de valor de la pesquería del pulpo y evaluación de gobernabilidad de las PPE de la PY. Los resultados se reportan en capítulos auto contenidos. Las fuentes de información usados en esta investigación provienen de datos oficiales de dependencias locales, nacionales e internacionales, entrevistas con actores del sector pesquero y observación participativa no intrusiva en 7 comunidades pesqueras. La información contiene datos de 2006-2017. Los resultados muestran que las PPE reportan 142 especies, que contribuyen con el 70% del volumen de la producción total en la región. Estas especies se integran en nueve pesquerías, donde operan el 85% de pescadores y embarcaciones de la PY. La tipología clasificó tres “tipos” de PPE diferenciados por su producción pesquera, las especies desembarcadas (destacando el pulpo), el esfuerzo de pesca y los ingresos económicos de los pescadores, mostrando la heterogeneidad y complejidad del sistema de PPE en la PY. Este análisis permitió analizar el sistema pesquero en grupos de comunidades diferenciados por perfiles, los contrastes observados entre los grupos demandan atención adecuada a sus características en cuanto a implementación de estrategias de manejo en estas pesquerías. La estructura de la cadena de valor de la pesquería de pulpo mostró alta complejidad con diversidad de actores desde el ámbito comunitario hasta la exportación. Se identificaron diversos actores, formales e informarles, interconectados a través de complejos acuerdos económicos y sociales. Se destaca el poder económico y de comercialización de las empresas exportadoras a lo largo de toda la cadena y la participación de actores no reconocidos oficialmente, principalmente mujeres y niños. Dada la alta demanda internacional de pulpo y su relevancia pesquera a nivel regional, es fundamental comprender la estructura y dinámica de su cadena de valor para promover prácticas de mercado sostenibles. La complejidad reflejada en los recursos, las operaciones de pesca y los mercados, es manifiesta en el sistema de PPE. A esto se agrega una complejidad biogeográfica que cambia entre estados a lo largo de la región. Esta alta diversidad de especies, usuarios, distribuidores y comercializadores, y una limitada interacción entre usuarios e instituciones parece limitar la gobernabilidad de las PPE. El esquema de gestión actual opera bajo un enfoque de arriba hacia abajo (control gubernamental), prestando poca atención al componente socio-económico, cultural y de género de los sistemas pesqueros, limitando por tanto la participación de los usuarios en procesos de decisiones y la definición de políticas pesqueras. Este contexto demanda un involucramiento de los usuarios dentro de procesos adaptativos de gestión acordes a la complejidad que se enfrenta. La presente tesis ofrece un marco analítico para comprender la complejidad, diversidad y heterogeneidad de un sistema de PPE. Además, contribuye con un cambio de visión de los paradigmas de investigación tradicionales, ofreciendo propuestas metodológicas replicables en otros sistemas que integren PPE. Se espera que el conocimiento generando facilite procedimientos de monitoreo, promueva la interacción entre instituciones y usuarios y un cambio de perspectivas dirigidas a enfoques transdisciplinarios que integren conocimiento técnico y local para abordar las complejidades de las PPE. Se espera que esto ayude en la búsqueda de mejores prácticas de pesca, mercados y finalmente en el manejo sostenible de las PPE.
... YP is one of the Mexican biogeographic regions with highest levels of bird species richness (Navarro-Sigu¨enza et al., 2014), and it holds considerable importance for wintering and transient Nearctic-Neotropical species (Calm e et al., 2015). The area was originally covered by seasonally dry tropical forest characterized by a dry season that may last between 7 and 8 months (Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). Currently, more than 25% of the native species that conform the urban flora belong to the Fabaceae, Euphorbiaceae, and Poaceae families, while common exotic species include Flamboyant (Delonix regia), Golden rain tree (Cassia fistula), and Indian almond (Terminalia catappa) (Peraza-Contreras, 2011). ...
... Green space size ranged from 0.5 to 39.1 ha and distance to the nearest native vegetation patch ranged from 101 to 5685 m. Some of the surveyed sites harbor artificial waterbodies and were included in the sample to acknowledge the importance of these habitats for local bird diversity given that superficial waterbodies are scarce in YP (Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). ...
... Besides, we emphasize the contribution of waterbodies to bird diversity of the city. Although these waterbodies do not occur naturally, they provide habitat for both resident and migratory species, and this deserves attention considering the karstic origin of the YP and the scarcity of waterbodies in the area (Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). ...
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Given current urbanization trends, understanding the factors that affect local biodiversity is paramount for designing sound management practices. Existing evidence suggests that the assembly of urban communities is influenced by the environmental filtering of organisms based on their traits. Here, we investigate how environmental characteristics including isolation measurements affect the functional composition of avian assemblages in green spaces of Merida, Mexico, a Neotropical city. We sampled 22 sites, analyzed point-count data collected during fall migration, and characterized the habitat with regard to floristic and structural vegetation attributes, vegetation cover within green spaces, urban infrastructure, and isolation. We assessed the relationship between habitat descriptors and bird functional traits using RLQ and fourth-corner tests and compared trait–environment associations between resident and wintering species. Our results showed that functional composition of resident bird assemblages was linked to the environmental characteristics of the site, while the functional composition of wintering species was not. In particular, the degree of isolation revealed to be an important determinant of trait composition. Plant species richness, particularly native tree and shrub species, were critical for the functional composition of resident birds in green spaces. Our findings suggested shifts in body mass from less to more isolated green spaces. Specifically, we observed that large-bodied species predominated in isolated green spaces. This information is useful given the predicted increases in habitat isolation and transformation of green spaces due to urbanization.
... Due to the extreme karst nature of the whole peninsula, the northern Yucatán Peninsula is devoid of rivers. Where lakes and swamps are present, the water is typically marshy and generally unpotable [41]. Dry forests occupy the dry northwestern peninsula and include dry forests and scrublands, as well as cactus scrub. ...
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With the growth of cloud computing, the use of the Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform to conduct research on water inversion, natural disaster monitoring, and land use change using long time series of Landsat images has also gradually become mainstream. Landsat images are currently one of the most important image data sources for remote sensing inversion. As a result of changes in time and weather conditions in single-view images, varying image radiances are acquired; hence, using a monthly or annual time scale to mosaic multi-view images results in strip color variation. In this study, the NDWI and MNDWI within 50 km of the coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula from 1993 to 2021 are used as the object of study on GEE platform, and mosaic areas with chromatic aberrations are reconstructed using Landsat TOA (top of atmosphere reflectance) and SR (surface reflectance) images as the study data. The DN (digital number) values and probability distributions of the reference image and the image to be restored are classified and counted independently using the random forest algorithm, and the classification results of the reference image are mapped to the area of the image to be restored in a histogram-matching manner. MODIS and Sentinel-2 NDWI products are used for comparison and validation. The results demonstrate that the restored Landsat NDWI and MNDWI images do not exhibit obvious band chromatic aberration, and the image stacking is smoother; the Landsat TOA images provide improved results for the study of water bodies, and the correlation between the restored Landsat SR and TOA images with the Sentinel-2 data is as high as 0.5358 and 0.5269, respectively. In addition, none of the existing Landsat NDWI products in the GEE platform can effectively eliminate the chromatic aberration of image bands.
... Nonetheless, free-standing water is available in water bodies locally known as aguadas and sartenejas. Aguadas, known as dolines in geological terms (Allaby 2020), are natural shallow depressions that have soils with a high clay content where water from precipitation and seasonal streams is collected and stored (Fig. S1a-b;García-Gil et al. 2002, Torrescano-Valle & Folan 2015. These water holes occur at an approximate density of one per 10.5 km 2 most of them covering less than a half hectare (Reyna-Hurtado et al. 2012). ...
Great attention has been drawn to the impacts of habitat deforestation and fragmentation on wildlife species richness. In contrast, much less attention has been paid to assessing the impacts of chronic anthropogenic disturbance on wildlife species composition and behaviour. We focused on natural small rock pools (sartenejas), which concentrate vertebrate activity due to habitat’s water limitation, to assess the impact of chronic anthropogenic disturbance on the species richness, diversity, composition, and behaviour of medium and large-sized birds and mammals in the highly biodiverse forests of Calakmul, southern Mexico. Camera trapping records of fauna using sartenejas within and outside the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR) showed that there were no effects on species richness, but contrasts emerged when comparing species diversity, composition, and behaviour. These effects differed between birds and mammals and between species: (1) bird diversity was greater outside the CBR, but mammal diversity was greater within and (2) the daily activity patterns of birds differed slightly within and outside the CBR but strongly contrasted in mammals. Our study highlights that even in areas supporting extensive forest cover, small-scale chronic anthropogenic disturbances can have pervasive negative effects on wildlife and that these effects contrast between animal groups.
... El clima de la región es de tipo cálido subhúmedo con lluvias en verano y un alto porcentaje de lluvias invernales (Orellana et al., 2010). El promedio de precipitación fluctúa entre los 800 y 1,200 mm anuales, la temporada de secas ocurre de noviembre a abril, y las lluvias de mayo a octubre (Orellana et al. 2003;Torrescano-Valle & Folan, 2015). El 50% de la extensión del rancho se conforma por potreros, 25% por vegetación secundaria en regeneración y 25% por selva mediana subcaducifolia con elementos de selva mediana subperennifolia, caracterizada por árboles de entre 10 y 20 metros de altura (Navarro-Collí, 2001;Díaz-Gamboa, 2012). ...
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El Centro Educativo Hobonil (CEH) es una estación de campo de la Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán ubicado en el Municipio de Tzucacab, al sur del estado de Yucatán. En este trabajo se presenta un inventario de especies de anfibios y reptiles del CEH, el cual se obtuvo mediante recorridos en campo cinco días al año, durante siete años, utilizando diferentes técnicas de muestreo: transectos irrestrictos, trampas de embudo y trampas de caída. Adicionalmente se consideraron observaciones ocasionales, registros en plataformas digitales y ejemplares depositados en colecciones científicas. Se registraron 57 especies (26 familias y cuatro órdenes), de las cuales 16 son anfibios y 41 reptiles. Dieciocho especies se encuentran en alguna categoría de riesgo de acuerdo con la Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010, 15 especies son endémicas de la Provincia Biótica Península de Yucatán, tres son endémicas de la porción mexicana y dos especies son introducidas. Se reportan 13 nuevos registros de especies para el municipio de Tzucacab. Este trabajo representa el primer listado de la riqueza de especies de anfibios y reptiles en el CEH, así como el primero realizado en el municipio de Tzucacab, Yucatán.
... Scientists have attributed local deep soil accumulations as a potential element in the origin of these stands (Brokaw and Mallory 1993;Furley 1975). Other theories for stand development include factors such as precolonial human activities (Eder 1970;Johannessen 1957;Torrescano-Valle and Folan 2015), and modern disturbances (Standley and Record 1936). Previous studies have also associated cohune palm stands with higher soil fertility and preferred locations for subsistence farming, (Arnason and Lambert 1982;Bernsten and Herdt 1977;McSweeney 1995;Wright et al. 1959), commercial citrus operations (McSweeney 1993(McSweeney , 1995, and mechanized agriculture (Arnason and Lambert 1982). ...
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AimsWe studied how soils vary between cohune palm and non-cohune forests and assessed whether the forests differed in soil fertility.Methods We sampled soil profiles from six cohune palm forests and eleven non-cohune forests. Our laboratory analyses included soil organic matter (SOM), extractable phosphorous, and the total concentration of 10 elements. Each soil characteristic was subjected to a mixed-effects model with depth, forest type, and the interaction between the two as factors that were grouped by excavation.ResultsTotal phosphorous, sulfur, and SOM differed significantly between the two forest types, with higher values in non-cohune forests, on average. SOM, extractable phosphorous, and nine elements showed statistically significant changes with depth. The interaction between depth and forest type was significant for eight elements and SOM. The elemental concentrations were consistently maintained with depth in the cohune forests. Meanwhile, the elemental concentrations in non-cohune forest soils decreased with depth for all elements except calcium and magnesium, which increased concentration with depth.Conclusions Cohune forest soils and non-cohune forest soils differ in distinct ways but these differences do not relate to key measures of soil fertility. Cohune palm forest soils exhibit consistent elemental concentrations with depth, which suggests bioturbation or another phenomenon that redistributes nutrients.
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In this thesis, I analyzed the influence of forest age, vegetation structure and microclimate on the community of amphibians and reptiles in a chronosequence of tropical semi-deciduous forest in the south of the state of Yucatan. Twelve plots with different ages of abandonment were chosen and classified into three forest age categories: a) 10 to 17 years old, b) 24 to 25 years old and C) 65 to 80 years of succession. The plots were monitored at day and night in transects during the rainy season. A sampling effort of 1,200 hours / person was used. Twelve species were recorded showing a 94 % sampling completeness. Four species were the most abundant, Sceloporus chrysostictus, Anolis rodriguezii, Rhinoclemmys areolata and Anolis ustus and their abundances change according the forest age. As expected, the plots of succession category 65 to 80 years have a greater diversity of amphibians and reptiles; however, in this study the plots of categories 10 and 25 years did not differ statistically from the former. Increments in canopy cover, tree diameter, understory density and relative humidity had a positive influence on the herpetofaunal diversity in secondary forests. Secondary forests are important for the conservation of the herpetofauna as long as they are protected and connected to old-growth forests.
To document sequestrate fungal diversity in American tropical regions, we performed a series of field surveys in southeastern Mexico and discovered two new species in the phalloid genus Restingomyces (Trappeaceae, Phallales). Here, we describe them based on morphological and phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) subunit 6 and nuc 28S rDNA. Restingomyces guzmanianus is characterized by the brownish peridium, yellowish brown gleba, and ellipsoid basidiospores, whereas R. yaaxtax is characterized by the white peridium, pale green gleba, and small ellipsoid basidiospores. Both species occur in medium-statured tropical dry forest. The original diagnosis of the genus Restingomyces is emended to include these novel species. Illustrations are provided.
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Climate change has severe consequences on ecosystem processes, as well as on people's quality of life. It has been suggested that the loss of vegetation cover increases the land surface temperature (LST) due to modifications in biogeochemical patterns, generating a phenomenon known as "urban heat island" (UHI). The aim of this work was to analyze the effects of urban land-cover changes on the spatiotemporal variation of surface temperature in the tropical city of Mérida, Mexico. To find these effects we used both detected land-cover changes as well as variations of the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Mérida is ranked worldwide as one of the best cities to live due to its quality of life. Data from satellite images of Landsat were analyzed to calculate land use change (LUC), LST, and NDVI. LST increased ca. 4 °C in the dry season and 3 °C in the wet season because of the LUC. In addition, a positive relationship between the LST and the NDVI was observed mainly in the dry season. The results confirm an increase in the LST as a consequence of the loss of vegetation cover, which favors the urban heat island phenomenon.
Microbialites are sedimentary structures that represent modern models of the oldest life forms, stromatolites (<3.5 Ga), and are relevant for evolutionary and ecological studies. Cenote Azul is a deep (>90 m) karst sinkhole in the Yucatan peninsula characterized by microbialites that develop along its wall and hydrogeochemistry defined by the saturation of carbonate, sulfate and calcium ions. In this study, high throughput sequence analysis of 16S rRNA genes allowed characterization of the prokaryotic communities associated with microbialites in a depth profile. The most represented phyla were Proteobacteria (23.6-30.1%), Planctomycetes (11.6–13.8%), Cyanobacteria (9.7–16.5%), Acidobacteria (6.1–8.3%), Rokubacteria (4.1–7.8%), Chloroflexi (3.3–4.4%), Nitrospirae (3.5–4.6%), Actinobacteria (2.6–5%) Bacteroidetes (1.7–4.1%) and Thaumarchaeota (7.5–11.1%). Phylogenetic distance analyses described two distinct clusters of microbialites: Shallow (5 and 10 m) and Deep (20 and 30m). The dominant diversity at the phylum level of the prokaryotic community described in this system is similar to that of other microbialites from different environments, but differences are reported at the classification level of order, family and genus. The mineral composition of the Cenote Azul microbialites has calcite as the main constituent mineral (97%). Finally, this work establishes a baseline on the presence of microbialites and its relation to depth in the sinkholes of the Yucatan peninsula and stimulates the monitoring of these communities as a tool for the conservation of sites with high tourism pressure.
La distribución geográfica de la precipitación en la República Mexicana está tan íntimamente ligada con la orografía del país como con los rasgos más prominentes de la circulación atmosférica en superficie y en las alturas. Del sistema de Köppen modificado por la autora han surgido métodos para describir, con mayor apego a la realidad, las condiciones de precipitación del país.
Publicado en: García, E. (1965), "Distribución de la precipitación en la República Mexicana", Publicaciones del Instituto de Geografía, v. I, UNAM, México, pp. 171-191.