195 species at risk

Frontera NorteSur

Mexican government and university researchers are warning about threats posed to the survival of 195 plant and animal species in the northern border state of Chihuahua. Studies by the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) have identified  a broad gamut of species at risk, including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, as well as scores of cactus and other plant varieties.

Semarnat blamed climate change, soil loss, water shortages and human activities for the severe predicament many species face in a state that shares common ecosystems and natural migratory corridors with the southwestern United States.

Like other border zones, Chihuahua has suffered a chain of extreme weather events this year, including deep freezes, drought and unusual heat.

Manuel Lopez Torres, former director of Ciudad Juarez’s old agricultural university, said native species are particularly threatened in the majestic Samalayuca sand dunes that nudge the outskirts of the border city. According to Lopez, the removal and exploitation of sand have put the scorpion lizard and seven kinds of snakes in jeopardy.

“Sand mining” has likewise led to the disappearance of the desert tortoise and the northern fox from the dunes, Lopez said. Another problem, he added, was the dissipation of water sources and the subsequent substitution of forage plants with weeds.

Semarnat’s studies found many other emblematic creatures in danger of extinction, including rattlesnakes, mountain lions, desert big horn sheep, Harris hawks, black bears, turkeys, and prairie dogs.

Source: La Jornada, July 26, 2011. Article by Ruben Villalpando.

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