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  • Gabriela Suarez Gracida M.S

Phase Two: Comcaac Coastal Restoration

The Comcaac coastal research team begins a new phase of protection and restoration of mangroves and seagrasses to mitigate the effects of climate change.


Yadira Montaño Morales collecting red mangrove propagules. Photo by Erika Barnett.

Along the Infiernillo Channel, located in the eastern Gulf of California in Mexico, Erika Barnett, a native of the Comcaac community of Punta Chueca, began collecting red mangrove (Rizophora mangle) propagules (seeds). During September 2022, Erika, accompanied by women, youth, elders and sometimes children from her community, traveled the coasts and estuaries, by boat and on foot, collected more than 6,000 propagules and transported them to a nursery in the community.


Barnett sisters collecting red mangrove propagules. Photo by Comcaac team member.

The nursery was built by her husband Alberto Mellado two years ago when they started a coastal restoration program to protect mangrove forests and marine Zoster beds to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Once in the nursery Erika places the propagules in plastic bottles which she has purchased from members of her community as they clean up the volumes of plastic that accumulate in the community.


Erika Barnett placing the red mangrove propagules collected at the estuaries. Photo by Alberto Mellado.
Plastic bottles with propagules of red mangrove. Photo by Erika Barnett.

During the rise of the pandemic, Alberto Mellado and Erika Barnett, leaders of the Comcaac coastal conservation and restoration team, created a small nursery in which they placed more than 3,000 red mangrove propagules (Rizophora mangle) collected with members of the community, which they planted in the estuaries of the Infiernillo Channel, part of their territory.


Transplantation of red mangrove seedlings with members of the Punta Chueca community. Photo by Alberto Mellado.

This year, to improve the establishment success of the mangrove propagules, once they have roots, they will be placed in bags with soil in a new annex of the nursery and grow the plants for a year before being transplanted. Their goal is to transplant thousands of mangroves in 30 hectares of critical zones over the next two years.


Red mangrove propagules with roots, ready to be transplanted to bags. Photo by Alberto Mellado.

The mangrove collection and propagation effort is a continuation of the coastal restoration and carbon sequestration initiative started in 2020 in collaboration with Comcaac environmental leaders and Borderlands Restoration Network to protect mangrove and seagrass areas while creating sustainable livelihoods as a strategy for blue carbon sequestration and climate change resilience.


Comcaac diver at the Canal del Infiernillo seagrasses. Photo by Carmen Gabriela Suárez Gracida.

In September 2022 we launched the second phase of the project thanks to the continuing support of the 11th Hour Racing Grant Program, funded by The Schmidt Family Foundation, which in addition to expanding mangrove restoration, will allow us to focus restoration efforts on the critical areas detected in previous years, to improve planting and restoration procedures, to learn more about the dynamics of blue carbon in the Infiernillo Channel, and build capacity for sustainable livelihoods.


To protect the areas at sea with high levels of carbon sequestration, the team of scientists and Comcaac researchers will collect and analyze soil samples to obtain a detailed understanding of the amounts and dynamics of carbon accumulated in the soil in the parts of the Canal where seagrasses and mangroves grow. Experimental trials will be conducted to plant seagrass (Zostera marina) seeds.


To engage the Comcaac community in the protection of the largest seagrass beds and mangrove stands in the Gulf of California, we will celebrate the biocultural diversity of the Infiernillo Channel in a festival with food prepared from the seeds of Zostera marina, a traditional food of the Comcaac and involve the community in hands-on conservation activities to protect the ecosystems and turtles in the Infiernillo Channel.


This initiative is a collaboration with Comcaac authorities and community members, applying their ancestral knowledge with modern science.


We are grateful for the support of the 11th Hour Racing Grant Program, funded by The Schmidt Family Foundation, with Amazon Conservation Team, and in collaboration with la Comisión Nacional de Áreas Protegidas, Universidad de Sonora, and the University of Arizona, Southwest Center.

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