Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1047–1060 | Cite as

Half a century of changes in waterbird populations in a semiarid wetland system

  • Eric MellinkEmail author
  • Jaime Luévano
  • Mónica E. Riojas-López
Original Paper


Mexican inland wetlands in the arid and semiarid interior highlands historically held very large numbers of waterbirds. However, they have been deteriorated by agriculture, industrial and urban development, tourism and aquaculture, although the effects of this are known poorly. At the southern end of the Central Plateau of Mexico, the region of El Llano, in the states of Aguascalientes and Jalisco, is densely dotted with wetlands amidst an agricultural landscape. The wetlands that existed at the time of Spanish contact have disappeared or been modified, but many new ones have been created, including large and mid-size reservoirs, as well as small cattle watering tanks. The importance of this region for waterbirds was analyzed based on the data from the USFWS mid-winter Mexican waterfowl surveys, and surveys by ourselves in 1984–1985 and from 2010 to 2014. The data exhibited a peak in diving ducks in the late 1970s, which might reflect reservoir restoration and, or creation. Wetland water levels as well as their use by waterbirds was highly variable during the study period, and some sites that were important in 1984–1985 have silted and dried up. The major waterbird trend in the survey area has been a steady increase in the number of the threatened Mexican Duck since the late 1970s until 2010–2011, that might have been resulted from a reduction in its hunting and egg collecting, and, or improvement in nesting habitat, along with reservoir creation or restoration.


Reservoir Biodiversity Conservation Habitat Mexico El Llano 



Mark Otto (Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USFWS) kindly provided the original data from the mid-winter waterbird survey, including a detailed file that allowed for the reconstruction of the survey path. Pilot-biologist Phil Thorpe provided comments on the survey area. Alfonso Salado-Rodríguez (deceased) assisted during the 1983–1984 ground surveys. Armando Esparza provided information on past and current use of waterfowl in the Jalisco section of the area, while Octavio Martínez-Castañeda informed on current duck hunting in it. Othón Cervantes-Sánchez supplied the meteorological data. Francisco Javier Osorio-Proal and Juan Rogelio Aguirre-Rivera confirmed on governmental actions during the 1970s and 1980s. Our greatest appreciation are extended to all of them. Field work was carried out with personal funds from Margarita Palacios, EM, and JL and from internal funds of the Centro de Investigación Científica y Educación Superior de Ensenada, B.C. One anonymous reviewer helped greatly to improve the quality of this article. This work was prepared while EM was on sabbatical at the Institut Universitaire de France, in Besançon, with support from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT, Mexico), and MERL was on sabbatical at the Laboratoire Chrono-environnement, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, France, with support from CONACYT.


Field work was carried out with personal funds from Margarita Palacios, Eric Mellink, and Jaime Luévano and from internal funds of the Centro de Investigación Científica y Educación Superior de Ensenada, B.C

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Biología de la ConservaciónCentro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de EnsenadaEnsenadaMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecología, Centro Universitario de Ciencias Biológicas y AgropecuariasUniversidad de GuadalajaraZapopanMexico

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