Habitat Destruction in Mexico

Chris J. Durden drdn at mail.utexas.edu
Wed May 17 01:09:48 EDT 2000

At 08:32  17/05/00 -0800, you wrote:
>Habitat destruction is a popular topic on this list and certainly a
>serious problem. Besides lepidoptera, a seemingly completely different
>interest of mine is weather satellite reception. With the recent high
>profile fire in Los Alamos the discussion on a weather satellite list
>turned to the creation of false color images that highlight fires.
>Recently I created one of these to see the Los Alamos fire. Part of
>this included a good portion of Mexico. I'm not a satellite interpretation
>expert but there appeared to be hundreds of fires burning in the western
>Sierra Madre of Mexico. A couple dozen showed obvious smoke plumes.
>You may download the image and view it if you like.
>ftp://shell3.ba.best.com/web2/aa6g/mexico.jpg  (400KB)
>Maybe there are a few on this list familiar with Mexico. What is going
>on down there? This looks like habitat destruction on a mass scale. Images
>of the western U.S. and Canada show no such fire activity....except for
>those in N.M and AZ.....and there are only a few red dots.
>To help in your interpretation of this false colorimage, red is anything
>that is warm. Red land does not mean it's on fire, only red dots I presume
>to be fires. Green highlights vegetation. Blue is water and also highlights
>smoke and haze. Cyan is clouds.
>Is the Monarch overwintering site in this image? If not I can probably get 
>one that shows it.
>Chuck Vaughn <aa6g at aa6g.org>
Fantastic image of Sinaloa and parts of adjacent states! A sorry sight.
See also the maps at -


choose - Mapas actuales, then tipo de incendio

  This is the legacy of the PRI Ehido Program which resettled many
thousands of  tropical farmers to the "despoblado" of northern Mexico.
These farmers came from a culture where the burning of forest to generate
ash, to fertilize land. to grow corn for 2 or 3 years, is the norm. The
classic slash and burn agriculture which works effectively for slow growing
human populations in ecological balance with a fast growing tropical forest.
  The problems here are 1} the fast growing number of people trying to grow
corn, in 2) slow growing montane forest, temperate forest, and desert
riparian woodland. 
  This has been going on for more than 40 years, but the pace has picked up
logarithmically as the increased smoke load in our SE US sky and
measurement of acid rainfall at Big Bend National Park has shown in the
last few years.  
  Yes we are concerned. The world will lose undescribed species from these
mountains. Air pollution will get worse in parts of the US. Our rainfall in
the Eastern US will decline as the evaporative properties of the vegetation
of the Sierra Madre decline. These are good people doing the burning.
  We as scientists can do little other than report what is going on. Maybe
the Union of Concerned Scientists can help us. 
  Attempts to change current deleterious practices are a matter of
autonomous national law and administration in Mexico. Perhaps some
persuasion can be applied by international lawyers in the frame of NAFTA or
the World Trade Organization. As far as the US is concerned we must rely
upon the State Department to further our interests.
.......Chris Durden

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