Thursday, May 21, 2009
Research conducted under the auspices of the San Diego Natural History Museum played a crucial role in the recent decision by UNESCO officials to list Mexico's Gulf of California, including 244 islands and coastal areas, as a World Heritage site. As such, the area joins a list of the world's most spectacular places, including the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Galapagos Islands, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef, and Yosemite National Park. The UNESCO decision was of course made on the basis of the nomination made by Mexico, the member nation claiming the Gulf of California.
The Gulf is unique in the richness of its biodiversity: the area is documented as containing 695 vascular plant species; 891 fish species, 90 of them endemic; 39% of the world's marine mammal species; and a third of the world's marine cetacean species.
Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra, director of the Biodiversity Research Center of the Californias (the research arm of the Museum), edited a compendium of recent scientific research documenting the significance of the Gulf, A New Island Biogeography of the Sea of Cort?s, which was published in 2002. This book provided essential evidence in the argument to place the islands on the UNESCO list.