An Aquatic Paradise in Mexico, Pushed to the Edge of Extinction

2/22/2017 New York Times

xochimilcoXOCHIMILCO, Mexico — With their gray-green waters and blue herons, the canals and island farms of Xochimilco in southern Mexico City are all that remain of the extensive network of shimmering waterways that so awed Spanish invaders when they arrived here 500 years ago.

But the fragility of this remnant of pre-Columbian life was revealed last month, when a 20-feet-deep hole opened in the canal bed, draining water and alarming hundreds of tour boat operators and farmers who depend on the waterways for a living.

The hole intensified a simmering conflict over nearby wells, which suck water from Xochimilco’s soil and pump it to other parts of Mexico City. It also revived worries about a process of decline, caused by pollution, urban encroachment and subsidence, that residents and experts fear may destroy the canals in a matter of years.

“This is a warning,” said Sergio Raúl Rodríguez Elizarrarás, a geologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “We are driving the canals towards their extinction.”

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Biologists Find Weird Cave Life That May Be 50,000 Years Old

2/17/2017 New York Times

cave-flickr-creative-commonsIn a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese, said Penelope Boston, head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. .

“It’s super life,” said Boston, who presented the discovery Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston.

If confirmed, the find is yet another example of how microbes can survive in extremely punishing conditions on Earth.

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Mexico City, Parched and Sinking, Faces a Water Crisis

2/17/2017 New York Times

mexico cityMEXICO CITY — On bad days, you can smell the stench from a mile away, drifting over a nowhere sprawl of highways and office parks.

When the Grand Canal was completed, at the end of the 1800s, it was Mexico City’s Brooklyn Bridge, a major feat of engineering and a symbol of civic pride: 29 miles long, with the ability to move tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater per second. It promised to solve the flooding and sewage problems that had plagued the city for centuries.

Only it didn’t, pretty much from the start. The canal was based on gravity. And Mexico City, a mile and a half above sea level, was sinking, collapsing in on itself.

It still is, faster and faster, and the canal is just one victim of what has become a vicious cycle. Always short of water, Mexico City keeps drilling deeper for more, weakening the ancient clay lake beds on which the Aztecs first built much of the city, causing it to crumble even further.

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WWF Calls for Fishing Ban to Save Last of Vaquita Porpoises

2/6/2017 New York Times

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMEXICO CITY — The World Wildlife Fund on Monday called for a complete ban on fishing in the habitat of the vaquita porpoise, noting an international committee of experts has determined that fewer than 30 of the critically endangered mammals probably remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place they live.

Experts and the Mexican government previously announced a plan to catch the few remaining vaquitas and enclose them in pens for protection and possible breeding.

But the World Wildlife Fund argued that is not the answer for the tiny porpoise, saying in a statement that “the only way to save the vaquita from extinction is for the Mexican government to immediately and indefinitely ban all fisheries within its habitat.”

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Vaquita going extinct as Mexico, China, dither

2/6/2017 The Ecologist

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAThe world’s smallest porpoise is fast heading to extinction, writes Aron White thanks to Mexico’s failure to ban the use of gillnets in its range, and China’s illegal imports of totoaba fish swim bladders, used in Chinese medicine. Without urgent and effective action the vaquita will soon disappear for good.

Despite multiple commitments and increased international attention, efforts to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal are proving woefully inadequate.

The vaquita, a very rare species of porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California in Mexico, stands today on the very edge of extinction.

Almost half those remaining were lost between 2015 and 2016, and the species is thought to number only about 30 individuals.

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Monsanto sees prolonged delay on GMO corn permits in Mexico

1/30/2017 Reuters

CorncobsA ban on planting genetically modified corn in Mexico is likely to continue for years as a slow-moving legal battle grinds on, said a top executive of U.S.-based seed and agrochemical company Monsanto Co.

Last week, a Mexican court upheld a late 2013 ruling that temporarily halted even pilot plots of GMO corn following a legal challenge over its effects on the environment.

“It’s going to take a long while for all the evidence to be presented,” Monsanto regional corporate director Laura Tamayo said in an interview. “I think we’re talking years.”

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U.S. Energy Secretary and Mexico Energy Minister Sign Bilateral Principles to Promote Electricity Reliability of Interconnected Power Systems

1/9/2017 Department of Energy

hand shakeMEXICO CITY – On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Mexico’s Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, along with Federal Energy Regulatory Commision (FERC) Chairman Norman Bay, Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) Chairman Guillermo Ignacio Garcia Alcocer and National Center for Energy Control (CENACE) Director Eduardo Meraz Ateca, together signed a non-binding foundational document that will support a continued effort by both countries to assure reliability of the increasingly interconnected American and Mexican electricity grids. U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson and President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Gerry Cauley witnessed the signing.

“The United States and Mexico have a long-standing energy partnership that is being strengthened further as Mexico advances its impressive energy sector reform,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Electricity system integration will help both countries achieve economic, energy and environmental goals, and these agreed upon principles will help assure reliability and resilience.”

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