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The Green Line: Community-based protected areas receive UNESCO support By Talli Nauman/The Herald MexicoEl UniversalLunes 08 de enero de 2007The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO, added 25 natural protected areas to its list of biosphere reserves in 2006, and 18 of them are in Mexico. This is a joyous note on which to start the new year, because these areas are threatened, even though they are officially protected. The designation means Mexico will receive funding from the international Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program for better conservation. The decision is a real godsend, given the deep gouges the federal administration is making in the already inadequate environmental management budget. After 20 years of history, the World Network of Biosphere Reserves now has 507 locales in 102 countries. The reserves are the highest category of protected areas, recognized under MAB only where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring, as well as promoting both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation of natural resources. What do you suppose are some of the biggest threats to the protected areas? Of course, under funding is a hindrance. Lack of channels for citizen participation in environmental awareness training and decision making is a major impediment. But even when that is being overcome, global warming is hard on its heels. That’s right folks. “Increased global temperature is just one of the consequences of the impacts of human activities on the climatic equilibrium of the planet, with modifications of precipitation patterns, droughts, storminess, ocean temperature and acidification, sea level rise, etc. Such changes are impacting on World Heritage properties, and if the trend is confirmed, these impacts will become even more threatening in the near future,” says a recent World Heritage Centre report. Rising temps are bleaching coral reefs, causing wildlife habit changes, effecting wildfire frequency and intensity, impacting the migration of pests and invasive species, as well as melting glaciers, according to the joint report entitled “Predicting and Managing the Effects of Climate Change on World Heritage.” It recommends that biosphere reserves use their funding for monitoring, sharing know-ledge with stakeholders, updating management plans, and designing and implementing mitigation and preparedness measures. This will hopefully reduce the impact of destruction from climate change. The new reserves where the recommendations can be applied in Mexico are as follows: Cumbres de Monterrey, the landmark mountains that ensure the water supply for the capital of Nuevo Leon state; Huatulco, which protects endangered sea turtles, dolphins and purple snails on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca state; La Encrucijada, which features shrimping lagoons on the Pacific Coast of Chiapas state; La Primavera, pine and oak corridor located near the capital of Jalisco state; La Sepultura, on ancestral lands of Olmec and other pre-Hispanic cultures in Chiapas; Laguna Madre and Rio Bravo Delta, a migratory bird haven at the U.S.-Mexico border and Caribbean Sea shore. Also included: Los Tuxtlas, a jungle and volcano region of Veracruz state rich in pre-Hispanic archeology; Maderas del Carmen, encompassing parts of the Chihuahuan Desert in Coahuila state adjacent to the U.S. biosphere reserve of Big Bend National Park. Rounding out the list: Monarch butterfly migration sites symbolic of continental environmental cooperation; Pantanos de Centla, wetlands villages in Tabasco state; Selva El Ocote, rain forests, caves and underground water reserves in Chiapas; Sierra de Huautla, woods full of endemic species in Morelos state; Volc?n Tacana, fragile ecosystems in Chiapas, adjacent to a Guatamalan national park; Arrecife Alacranes, the largest coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico, and the only one in Yucat?n state; Barranca de Metztitl?n, home of Otom? Indians and representative wildlife species in Hidalgo state; Chamela-Cuixmala, a Pacific Coast tropical forest harboring iguanas and crocodiles; Cuatrocienagas, an oasis with 500 pools that preserve species found only in the Coahuila state part of the Chihuahua desert; and Sistema Arrecifal Veracruzano, an archipelago off the Caribbean coast near Veracruz. In addition, MAB’s International Coordinating Council extended Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Campeche state and renamed it Regi?n de Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. It now includes more protected areas of the Yucat?n Peninsula, which has among the highest biodiversity of Mexico’s tropical forests. The reserve also features important Maya ruins and is considered to be an important part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. Congratulations to all the environmental heroes and heroines who have promoted the hometown initiatives to make these areas deserving of inclusion in the biosphere reserve network, which will promote their sustainable development for years to come. Mexico can be proud that its policies, as weak as they are, have responded sufficiently to community needs to result in such a large number of biosphere reserve recognitions. The challenge ahead is to fortify programs for grassroots involvement that will take full advantage of the MAB funding for the benefit of local economies and the global environment. email@example.com
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