Ecological and socio-economic description and conservation feasibility study for Estero Cardonal

Project Description

Of the three aforementioned estuaries, Estero Cardonal is the most pristine, with no direct impact from aquaculture development, yet it is surrounded by expanding aquaculture facilities. In the fall of 2009, the RCP and the Prescott College Marine Conservation class did a conservation feasibility study of Estero Cardonal. In order to assess the feasibility and rationale for conservation of this estuary, it was necessary to describe the biodiversity and socioeconomic characteristics of the estuary and evaluate the ecological and economic importance of this small wetland. Preliminary inventories of plants, waterbirds, fish and invertebrates were conducted and biological and oceanographic properties of the estuary were documented. Furthermore, interviews were carried out in the small fishing community. This study was designed as a preliminary assessment of the feasibility of, and justification for, attaining protected status for Estero Cardonal. 

Project Results



The preliminary study revealed several factors highlighting the importance of and potential for conservation of Estero Cardonal. Indicators for conservation were:

  1. The estuary is ecologically important as:

  • Habitat for neotropical migrants and nesting waterbirds, including seven species listed on the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001, 25 species of Continental or Regional Concern under the Sonoran Joint Venture analysis, and two species considered Near Threatened on the IUCN Redlist, 

  • Habitat supporting five species in numbers close to, at, or exceeding 1% of regional populations, qualifying Estero Cardonal for designation as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance and an Important Bird Areas

  • Habitat and nursery grounds for several species of commercial importance

  • Habitat for one plant listed on the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001.

  • Habitat for nesting sea turtles, including Leatherbacks, all of which are protected in Mexico.

  1. There is a real and apparent threat from aquaculture.

  2. Unique estuarine habitat is zoned for Conservation and can actually be conserved before perturbation if action is quick.

  3. Ejido Cardonal is relatively small, and control is therefore concentrated and identifiable. The community and its leaders are actively looking for economic gain from selling land, community members want to stay in El Cardonal, and the community is open to the idea of conservation easements / development rights buy-out. The community seems open to collaboration.

Reports & Publications

  1. Estero Cardonal Conservation Feasibility Study (2009). Prescott College
  2. Research and Conservation Program Report (2007-2011). Prescott College Kino Bay Center for Cultural and Ecological Studies