Threats and Resolutions Ro Lagartos Ecosystem

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By Linda Patterson

Ro Lagartos is one of Mesoamerica's largest and most stunning natural preserves :150,000 hectares of lush forest, tropical wetlands, and turquoise lagoons Sadly, it is also one of the region's most threatened, as its size and natural bounty make it an easy target for despoilment, from directions that one wouldn't naturally expect a bioreserve to need defense against. It will take serious and considered human intervention to maintain the pristine beauty and diverse ecosystem that still exists within its fertile borders.

Storm Target

Ro Lagartos has the misfortune of being located directly in the path of many storms that brew up during the Atlantic/Caribbean hurricane season, and as a result, has weathered at least 13 of the vicious storms in the past 50 years. The environmental damage these storms cause is on par with the destruction wreaked on communities in the region of San Felipe, Las Coloradas, and Ro Lagartos itself. Though few measures can be taken to alter the course or frequency of these hurricanes, better early warning and weather prediction would doubtlessly be a boon to the towns and villages of the region.


An area of concern for Rio Lagarots that human beings can take direct action in preventing is that of deforestation. Due to the several large settlements that lie near the borders of the preserve, some parts of Rio Lagos are becoming quickly denuded of their forests. More than 7,000 acres of lush tropical vegetation and beautiful mangrove swamps have been cut down, plowed over, filled in, and destroyed, both for the value of the lumber and as a way to create more farmland to support the surrounding communities. Better urban planning and a check on the growth of the settlements near Ro Lagartos is all that is needed to preserve one of the most important features of this amazing natural environment.

Depleting the Seas

Not only on land is the Ro Lagartos preserve in danger of being drained of its valuable natural resources. Overfishing in the lagoons and coastal waters is a serious problem that seems to exacerbate with each passing year. Due to the current unfavorable economic climate, many in the region who live close to the line of subsistence as it is have turned to the seas as a source of additional income or sustenance. As a result, over only the past few years, populations of many sea creatures such as clams, mullet, octopus, and milk conch have been dramatically reduced. Some fisherman have even turned to to harvesting their bounty with explosives, an incredibly destructive practice that threatens to tip the balance of the undersea ecosystem just as severely as the process of deforestation endangers its land-dwelling counterparts. As a stopgap, more stringent enforcement of fishing laws and the prosecution of poachers would be a positive step. However, looking to the future, it is clear that a much broader recognition and practice of restraint and respect for the tolerance of the complex web of life under the waves will be the only sure, long-term solution to this problem.

Poorly Planned Roads

Even the activity of humans on the periphery of the preserve can have a drastic and deadly effect on its ecology. Many roads constructed on the outskirts of the bioreserve have been built with nary a thought towards how they could negatively effect the plant and animal populations that lie within. Most of these roads lack proper drainage, and rely on perpendicular wave-breaks that, by their very nature, upset and redirect the natural flow of water in and around the preserve. This not only changes the amount of water that reaches various locations, but also alter the salt level of the soil, a precise maintenance of which is vital to the survival of many plants (such as the mangrove) that are one of the cornerstones of the Ro Lagartos ecosystem. In the future, we can only hope that those poorly-built roads are repaired or replaced, and that any new construction is conducted with serious attention to the environmental impact that it may have on the vibrant and diverse flora and fauna that call the Ro Lagartos preserve their home.

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