VSFS ~ Ecology

Bahía de Los Ángeles is located at the intersection of three distinct desert ecosystems along the Sea of Cortez. These conditions provide for one of the most spectacular environmental contrasts in the world. The area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. Its high marine productivity, exceptional species richness and diversity are partially the result of 16 midriff islands within the bay which help to stir nutrient rich, deep, near-shore waters. These conditions are favorable such that 39% of the worlds marine mammal species call the bay home, including many species of great whales and dolphins. In addition, five (of nine) species of sea turtles and whale sharks regularly feed in these waters. The reef fish communities in the Sea of Cortez are among the most diverse and abundant worldwide -- with at least 333 species from more than 37 families [Findley et al., 1996, 1997].  The fertile environment supports breeding grounds for a large population of elegant terns that migrate from South America as well as one of the largest known breeding grounds for the brown pelican. Other populations of sea birds include the reddish egrets, blue-footed and brown boobies, magnificent frigate birds, elegant terns, brown pelicans, double-crested and Brandt’s cormorants, and black storm petrels.
The sixteen uninhabited islands and three protected wetland areas -- including two mangrove forests -- provide an amazing opportunity to observe and study interactions between the island and the marine environment.  This natural laboratory has been the catalyst for ground breaking research showing the flow of energy from the ocean to adjacent arid and otherwise nutrient-poor terrestrial environments [Polis et al., 1998; Rose and Polis, 1998; Sanchez-Pinero and Polis, 2000; Case et al., 2002] . While many islands around the world provide a source of nutrients for the surrounding marine environment, the arid island ecosystems here are largely sustained by the influx of organic material provided by the highly-productive marine ecosystems. Many other key features of island biogeography can be observed here that are rarely observed anywhere else in the world.

Case, T.J., M.L. Cody and E. Ezcurra (2002). Chapters from A New Island Biography of the Sea of Cortés. Oxford University Press: New York.

Polis, G.A. (1991). Chapter 13, "Food Webs in Desert Communities: Complexity via Diversity and Omnivory." In Polis, G.A. (Editor), The Ecology of Desert Communities. University of Arizona Press: Tucson.

Polis, Gary A., Stephen D. Hurd, C. Todd Jackson, and Francisco Sanchez-Piñero. 1998. MULTIFACTOR POPULATION LIMITATION: VARIABLE SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL CONTROL OF SPIDERS ON GULF OF CALIFORNIA ISLANDS. Ecology 79:490–502. [doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/0012-9658(1998)079[0490:MPLVSA]2.0.CO;2]

Rose, M.D. and G.A. Polis (1998). "The Distribution and Abundance of Coyotes: The Effects of Allochthonous Food Subsidies From the Sea." Ecology, 79(3), pp. 998-1007.

Sanchez-Pinero, F., and G.A. Polis. (2000). “Bottom-up Dynamics of Allochthonous Input: Direct and Indirect Effects of Sea Birds on Islands