The Aquatic Ecosystems of
Mexico describes a cross-section of the many and varied temperate and tropical
water bodies of Mexico. The first paper describes the federal and regional laws
and regulations enacted to govern how water is used in Mexico and by whom. The
scientific papers which follow the political and social context describe freshwater,
estuarine and marine Systems: ultra-oligotrophic, eutrophic and hypereutrophic
lakes, inland and coastal saline systems, rivers, streams, reservoirs, estuaries,
lagunas, reefs and coastal areas.
The monograph is conveniently divided into two sections namely Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems. The papers are largely descriptive in nature, and thus will serve as essential documents for future work on management and health strategies called for by nearly every author. lncluded are works on aquatic ecological relationships, epidemiology, toxicology; on aquatic chemistry. freshwater and marine floral and fauna communities; on lake morphometry, river sedimentation, erosion, eutrophication, on monitoring, modeling and management.
This book, Aquatic Ecosystems
of Mexico: Status and Scope, is an important example of the growing linkages
between the environmental science community in Mexico and its counterparts in
the rest of the world. The Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society (AFHMS)
has, in sponsoring this volume under the Ecovision World Monograph Series, continued
an important empowering and leadership role. Earlier, in 1997, the Society had
signaled its commitment to advancing these linkages when it organized the 5th
Intemational Conference on Aquatic Ecosystem Health (Linking Science, Education,
Politics and Science) at Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Guadalajara. The AEHMS has organized
another international symposium focusing on the Lerma-Chapala Basin to be held
in April 2000. Recently the AEHMS has assembled and published a special issue
on "Mexican Waters: Ecology, Health and Management" in the Society's
journal-Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management (Elsevier Science, UK). The
above initiatives provide a very tangible indication of steps the Society is
taking to advance its stated goal - "to encourage and promote integrated,
ecosystemic and holistic initiatives for the protection and conservation of
aquatic resources". The Society has also actively promoted international
cooperation, understanding and appreciation of our collective freshwater heritage.
This compendium of research on aquatic ecosystems in Mexico will serve as an important benchmark on the health and management of Mexico's freshwater and marine ecosystems. It also provides a clear indication of both the high quality and diversity of the research that is being done on the waters of Mexico as well as documenting many of the daunting challenges that Mexico has, and will continue to have, in protecting, conserving and sustainably using these precious resources. Perhaps most importantly this book as well as the earlier special issue of the Society Journal will help catalyze increased scientific interchange and cooperation between Mexican professionals in freshwater and marine sciences and their colleagues in the United States, Canada and elsewhere.
There are many other encouraging examples that demonstrate the readiness of scientists and their societies to increase the level of collaboration and cooperation among "environmental" scientists in North America. The American Fisheries Society has recently initiated a "Bridge to Mexico" program and has encouraged fisheries professionals in the United States and Canada to develop collaborative conservation projects and studies with their Mexican colleagues. In another recent international initiative more than 600 people attended a North American Symposium: "Toward a unified framework for inventorying and monitoring forest ecosystem resources" which was held November 1-6, 1998 in Guadalajara, Mexico. This symposium evolved from an earlier event, a "North American workshop on monitoring for ecological assessment of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems" which was held in September, 1995 in Mexico City. Collaborative programs involving Universities from the three countries are also playing important functions as are binational agreements between Mexico and the United States and between Mexico and Canada.
The organization for which I work, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), welcomes increased cooperation amongst North American scientists interested in environmental sciences and technology. In some instances we have been able to help, in a very modest way, by co-sponsoring some of these important scientific "connections". The CEC was established in 1994 under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), which was negotiated by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States as a parallel side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The first three objectives of the North American Agreement on Environmental
Cooperation are to:
(a) foster the protection and improvement of the environment in the territories of the Parties for the well being of present and future generations;
(b) promote sustainable development based on cooperation and mutually supportive environmental and economic policies; and
(c) increase cooperation between the Parties to better conserve, protect and enhance the environment, including wild flora and fauna". Under the Agreement each Party also makes the general commitment to "further scientific research and technology development in respect of environmental matters".
A number of the Commission's current and planned projects will benefit from this book on Aquatic Ecosystems of Mexico. Examples include a CEC facilitated project on the Bight of the Californias, a similar proposed project on the Gulf of Mexico and work on marine protected areas. These projects are part of the "Global Programme for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities" (GPA).
In addition the Council of the Commission has directed that the CEC develop a North American Regional Action Plan on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. This project is part of the Commission's "Sound Management of Chemicals" initiative and it will focus on persistent toxic substances in the North American environment.
The Aquatic Ecosystems of Mexico: Status and Scope, published with the cooperation of the Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society, under the guidance of its current President and Chief Editor, is an important positive commitment to increased international environmental cooperation. It also provides a clear example of how individuals can make a difference and demonstrates the willingness of environmental scientists, if given an opportunity, to seek to work collaboratively with
colleagues in other countries. Scientific interchange, cooperation and understanding are critical to the successful development and implementation of international efforts to address major international environmental issues. The mutual respect and shared understanding that typically result from strengthened scientific collaboration are important "currencies" for preventing and resolving disputes that have their origins in environmental and natural resource issues. When successful they contribute to informed and responsible decisions and actions that lead to mutually beneficial outcomes. indeed in many instances it is expert "fact-finding" and "scientific consensus" that are the essential prerequisites for building the public and political support that makes it possible to address complex international environmental issues.
Dr. Andrew L. Hamilton
Head, Science Division/Jefe, Division Cientifica, Commission for Environmental
Cooperation, Comision Para La Cooperacion Ambiental, Montreal (Quebec),