Climate change is a fact confirmed by experts from around the world and its impact on human life is already undeniable.
Although the picture is adverse, those of us who live in Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay Region must feel fortunate that we still have important “natural defenses” as we face this climatic emergency.
Our region’s coast still maintains some functional wetlands including El Estero El Salado and La Lagua El Quelele, which are true protections against the effects that could be generated severe weather phenomena such as tropical cyclones and storm surges.
In addition to providing habitat for hundreds of species of flora and fauna, wetlands serve as natural barriers to curb the impact of waves and are natural flood sites.
Even though our tropical Pacific coast location exposes us to potential hurricanes, most residents feel relatively safe her and often say that “the mountains protect us.” There’s much truth in that statement as both the Sierra de Vallejo in Nayarit and the Sierra El Cuale in Jalisco form natural barriers that can help diminish the force of hurricanes, especially if their natural forest cover is kept intact. This allows them to absorb much of the impact of torrential rains and powerful winds.
However, if this forest cover is eliminated, the same mountains that have protected us could be converted into one of our greatest threats, compounding the damages of hurricanes with landslides and multiplied levels of flooding.
These mountains provide not only a complimentary hurricane defense system, they serve as our natural water tanks. Given that nearly all climate change predictions warn us of probable diminished rainfall in the Puerto Vallarta region, taking care of our water tanks and aquifers becomes essential.
This summer, we have seen global increases of heat waves in greater intensity and duration. Prolonged widespread increases of just two or three degrees Celsius have surpassed a matter of comfort and are becoming major matters of health concern internationally.
Acknowledging these threats, the role of ecosystems such as coastal wetlands and mountain forests is of enormous relevance. In addition to the benefits already discussed, they also regulate our local microclimate.
Accepting climate change as reality and increased acute local impacts as imminent forces us to ensure the protection of these ecosystems as one of the most pressing issues for our community.
For us in Puerto Vallarta, Bahía de Banderas, and northward through the Riviera Nayarit, conserving and, when necessary, restoring ecosystems such as La Sierra El Cuale, La Sierra de Vallejo, El Estero El Salado and La Laguna El Quelele will not just be a matter of environmental responsibility, but our very survival.