Sustainability and Sense of Place in the Sonoran Desert/Central Gulf Coast

Subregion Outline edit

Introduction: edit

The Baja area of the Sonoran Desert supports a wide range of wildlife that contradicts the the common understanding of the word "Desert". This sliver of land, while surrounded by large bodies of water, still suffers from some of the hardships of a desert such as water insecurity, and high temperatures. Part of the charm of this area, in addition to its beautiful landscape, is its large influence by culture and its long interesting history that has more influence in the world than most presume when referring to a desert.

A. History/Culture edit

Tiburón Island edit

Tiburon Island

Isla Tiburon is the largest island in Mexico which has been made a natural reserve. To get to the island, two permits are required for day hiking and overnight stays on the island. the island is mostly uninhabited, and home to bighorn sheep and coyotes.

This island has a very interesting story in its history about Tom Grindle and the members of his exploratory group in 1905, visiting the island where there are ruins of an old monastery from the Seri Indians. The original reporting's of the island to the Douglas dispatch found the island to be of volcanic origin, and not too much of a sight to see. The natives on the island were reported to be friendly and non combative, but with a little disapproval of the explorers. after failing to return almost a month after their expected arrival, Tom's brother lead the search for the missing people or to recover their bodies. Upon multiple trips to the island and even finding a camp believed to belong to the men, they never found them, or any signs of their bodies. There is some skepticism that they might have dies of thirst and their bodies disposed of by the natives, but there was no information found about them. This is believed so because of the natives fondness for raw foods, which lead others to believe they were cabalistic. [1] [2]

Parroquia Misión de Loreto edit

Parroquia Mission de Loreto

When Europeans first arrived in Baja California, the Spanish set to work on sending Jesuit missions to establish in the New World. One of the first missions to be established permanently in Baja California would be the Misión De Nuestra Señora de Loreto Concho in what was back then a Native American settlement named Concho. This mission took place in 1697 by Jesuit Father Jean Marie de Salvatierra.

Even though The mission in Loreto was the first permanent establishment of a Spanish church, it was not the first attempt. There were several past attempts made for many years that were met with failure due to many reasons. One of the bigger reasons would be from Native American aggression not letting them settle down. Another big problem was finding a livable place that had plentiful resources.

The permanent settlement of this church marked the change of an era. With a base from where to start from, many other Jesuit missionaries set forth to establish other churches and convert the Natives of Baja California. This came to the detriment of the Natives who through history, we can see how they were forcefully relocated on many occasions and most of them died from the newly introduced diseases. [3] [4]

B. Geology/Climate edit

Isla San José edit

San Jose Island

Isla San Jose is an island located in the gulf of California near the east coast of Baja California Peninsula, only 37 miles away from the city of La Paz. With a surface area of 182. 962 km2, it is considered the sixth largest island in Baja California.             

The eastern side of the island is composed of scarps that were the result of tectonic subsidence of the sea floor towards el Farallon Basin. the island was significantly affected by the faulting of the northeast southwest of the basin.

The San Jose channel was formed due to the late Miocene activity of the Giganta Fault. San Jose received marine sediment throughout the early Pliocene. Hundreds of years later these sediments were uplifted during the late Pliocene. The block faulting and lifting of these rocks and soil particles gave not only gave rise to the san Jose channel but also to the San Francisco island. [5]

Santa Rosalía edit

Santa Rosalia

The small town of Santa Rosalia is one of many old company towns that were once bustling with people due to mining operations by an old company called El Bolea. Today, the city has lost much of its population and shifted from a mining town to a more commercial city. The city was created in 1885 and was chosen as the seat of the Mulege municipality due to how influential it was in it’s time.

The city of Santa Rosalia started out as a mining town for a French mining company called El Bolea. The company created the town as a base of operations where they could expand from and workers would live in. This creation of jobs as well as the wealth created from copper, gold, and other minerals meant that the town started to slowly grow. The town eventually grew to be a wealthy city and in 1972, when the municipality of Mulege was formally established, Santa Rosalia became the head of the municipal.

The town was created for mining and has a long record of it until the year 1954, when the company El Bolea was shut down. After the company left the city, there had been many attempts at keeping the mining and refining aspect of the town alive, yet the people had no success. Even to this day, there have been some attempts at starting up mining again but the glory of past days remains alive as many of the smelters and mines have become parts of museums. [6] [7]

C. Biodiversity edit

Cabo Pulmo National Park edit

Bigeye Jack Trevallies

Cabo Pulmo National Park is a national marine park located on the east coast of the peninsula of Baja California, approximately 60 miles north of Los Cabos. A few decades ago, the overfishing of many marine organisms threatened Cabo Pulmo and affected its ecosystem. Thousands of species were put into danger due to irresponsible tourism. It was not until 1995 that the park was declared a natural protected area by Mexican laws.

Shortly afterward, the number of marine species in the area significantly increased, and nowadays, the park is home to the most complex and biodiverse regions of the Gulf of California. One of the most common species in this area is the caranx sexfasciatus, also known as the bigeye jack trevallies, a species of fish that can easily be found offshore. Cabo Pulmo's reef attracts a large number of migratory species such as whale sharks, marine turtles, giant mantas, and humpback whales. Sharks are also common in this area; the most common is the bull shark which can normally be seen during the summertime.

The recovery of the Cabo Pulmo reef is considered a success story, not only because of the legal protection interventions but also due to the community's collaboration. To support the protection of the park's ecosystem, many people stopped their fishing activities and instead promoted tourist activities that include scuba diving and whale and shark watching. [8] [9]

Isla del Espiritu Santo edit

Espiritu Santo Island

Espiritu Santo Island is a protected area located in the Golf of California, 29 Km from La Paz. There is no permanent human population, roads or bridges in the area, the only way to access the island by boat, currently, it can only be visited with a capacity of 40%.

The island is home to a diverse wildlife with 32 species of reptiles, 98 species of birds and 16 species of plants. However, most of the life in this island is found in the water, more specifically in the Baja Sea of Cortez. Some of the marine species that live in these waters include, hawksbill sea turtles, jumping manta rays, corrals, parrotfish, pelagic fish, and different species of whales.

Out of the 19 breeding grounds in the on the pacific coast of Mexico, Espiritu Santo has one of the biggest Sea Lion colonies in California with over 500 individuals. The sea lion colony is known as the island’s “crown jewel” and has the highest birth rates in the Gulf of Mexico. The island has been a Natural Protected Area for almost 12 years by now and has several monitoring programs such as the The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) and the Grupo Tortugero de las Californias (CTC). [10] [11]

Loreto edit

Bighorn Sheep

Loreto is home to different species of marine animals and land creatures. Humpback, blue and grey whales are among the biggest animals that can be found in the area. The best season to watch these creatures is between the winter and spring months. Other species of marine animal that are also found in the Loreto national park include dolphins, sea lions, whale sharks and over 900 different types of tropical fish.

Not only does Loreto have a great variety of migratory cetaceans and jumping mobulas, but it also has a huge world beneath the surface occupied by the smallest inhabitants. There are hundreds of sea slugs, crustaceans, flat worms, and nudibranchs of different types of colors. The botanic garden is the perfect home for soft corals, like gorgonians and sea fans. If you dive deeper you may even find a forest of black corals.

While most of the wildlife in Loreto is in the ocean there is a great variety of mammals living in the mountains and deserts of the place. Some of the land creatures if the area includes different species of coyotes, foxes, bobcats, racoons, and white-tailed deer. Species like the desert bighorn sheep and jackrabbits suffered from overhunting and became endangered. [12] [13]

D. Water/Land Use edit

Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) edit

Sunset at Sea of Cortez

The sea of Cortez sustains many species of life across the water and its 37 islands Many of which are rare or endangered. overfishing and pollution pose a major threat to this body of water and its animals that inhabit it.

The Gulf has an estimated population capacity set at around 13,000 boats, but it has been overcrowded holding nearly over 17,000 boats which has resulted in an inefficient catch rate, and decrease in aquatic population.

A Proposal has been made to ensure that fishing is being done more efficiently, by reducing the amount of individual boats which also in turn helps to decrease pollution of the water by the various boats. [14]

La Paz edit

La Paz

La Paz is the capital of Baja California, but is facing a severe water issue. Although residing close to open waters, La Paz is running out of water due to drought and growing populations. Because of this they decided to build an aqueducts from El Carrizal to La Paz. The project was expected to cost 10M Dollars to benefit around 67,000 people.

This Aqueduct is its only source of water since there are no natural springs or surface water in the La Paz watershed.

The water is divided by its uses with 2% being for industrial use, 35% for agriculture, and 63% for urban and domestic use. To maintain the health of this watershed and aquafer, they propose to utilize reforesting, building soil conservation works, and education the local public about the necessity to conserve water and use efficiently. [15] [16]

References edit

  1. kim. (n.d.). Arizona Ranger Rynning.
  2. Niemann, G. (2019, August 27). The Seri Indians Of Tiburon Island. Baja Bound Insurance Services.
  3. Nobuoka, Fumiko. The Missions in Baja California: A Short Historical Introduction. Cabos.
  4. Hansen, Mary. (2013, June 10). VISIT OUR LADY OF LORETO – Baja California Peninsula. Madonnas of Mexico.
  5. Carreno , Ana Luisa, and Javier Helenes . “Geology and Ages of Islands.” Https://, Jan. 2015.
  6. Santa Rosalia. Allaboutbaja.
  7. Eugenia B. De Novelo, Maria. A HISTORY OF SANTA ROSALIA IN BAJA CALIFORNIA. Sandiegohistory.
  8. Gittens, Jay D. “Cabo Pulmo National Park – A Hope Spot of Marine Conservation.” Baja Bound Insurance Services, Baja Bound Mexican Insurance Services, 25 Sept. 2019,
  9. Garelli, Ornela. “Cabo Pulmo, an Ocean Success Story for People and Wildlife.” Greenpeace International,
  10. “Mexico's Isla Espiritu Santo, a Jewel of Biodiversity in the Sea of Cortes.”, 20 Sept. 2018,
  11. “Espiritu Santo Island.” Www., La Paz, 22 Oct. 2020,
  12. “Loreto Mexico: A Playground for Wildlife: Villa Del Palmar Loreto.” Villa Del Palmar Resort & Spa at The Islands of Loreto,
  13. “Loreto Underwater.” Blue Nation Baja, 30 May 2020,
  14. Rohit, P. M. (2017). Study: Overfishing becoming common on Baja's Gulf coast. FishRapNews.
  15. Americas, B. (Ed.). (n.d.). BNamericas - SPOTLIGHT: El Carrizal-La Paz aqueduct .
  16. Torres-Martinez, J. A., Mora, A., Ramos-Leal, J. A., Morán-Ramírez, J., Arango-Galván, C., & Mahlknecht, J. (2019, August 23). Constraining a density-dependent flow model with the transient electromagnetic method in a coastal aquifer in Mexico to assess seawater intrusion. Hydrogeology Journal.