Marine mammals of Mexico: Richness patterns, protected areas, and conservation trends
Mexico registers about 60% of the total of marine mammals worldwide. However, species listed under a risk category show that, globally, Mexico faces big marine mammal conservation challenges. Thus, it becomes essential to successfully apply the existing knowledge into interdisciplinary conservation programs. We generated a presence/absence species richness map containing all 47 marine mammal species recorded in Mexico's Exclusive Economic Zone. After selecting nine oceanographic variables influencing marine mammal species richness, the top three factors influencing such richness were sea surface temperature and dissolved oxygen grouped in component #1, and salinity composed component #2. We also identified the species that are protected within a Marine Protected Area (MPA) category and its representation in management programs of these areas. Currently, 98% of marine mammal species distributed in Mexican waters are protected within an MPA; nevertheless, around 12% of them are not listed in management programs. Three priority sites in the Pacific Ocean and one for the Gulf of Mexico were identified to promote their conservation. Considering the sentinel and umbrella attributes of marine mammals, the information presented here will not only benefit their populations, but will also contribute to address marine species and ecosystems threats and improve the effectiveness of conservation plans.