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  • Jacob Bourne

NextGen Funds Blue Carbon Conservation in Sonora, Mexico

Coastal ecosystems can be effective and often overlooked carbon sinks. That’s why the Ray C. Anderson Foundation’s NextGen Committee has awarded $100,000 to Ducks Unlimited to support its sister organization, Ducks Unlimited de Mexico A.C, which has restored nearly two million acres of wintering waterfowl and other wetland-dependent species habitats. The funding will enhance infrastructure and blue carbon conservation efforts on 94,016 acres of the Seri First National Reservation in the area of Canal del Infiernillo in the mid-Pacific coastal state of Sonora, Mexico.

coastal Mexico
Coastal Mexico. Credit: DUMAC

Blue carbon is the carbon sequestered in coastal ecosystems that can store more carbon than terrestrial forests if protected. The soils, mangroves, seagrasses and tidal marshes are particularly effective at trapping carbon dioxide and keeping it locked away, in addition to protecting against flooding associated with storms and sea-level rise. Furthermore, these ecosystems provide critical habitats for numerous species and support the livelihoods of local people.

The NextGen Committee has been funding climate change mitigation and education since 2014 and aims to help bolster the protection of the natural carbon sink in coastal Sonora, Mexico. The grant money to DUMAC will fund a team of local engineers and biologists to partner with Seri leaders to control erosion and improve sanitation infrastructure in the town of Punta Chueca. With 95% of nearby homes lacking running water and 45% of the septic systems in disrepair, organic runoff has polluted the surrounding coastal seagrass beds and mangroves.

“More and more, we are seeing how environmental and social challenges are intertwined,” said Patrick Lanier, the 2021 chair of the Committee. “This is particularly true when it comes to the climate crisis. With this grant, we see an opportunity to address multiple challenges by improving the livelihoods of the Seri people while also protecting an ecosystem that can sequester many tons of carbon dioxide.”

The funding will primarily be used to construct 172 dry toilets, 41 biodigesters and plans for a drinking well to increase Punta Chueca’s potable water quality. DUMAC’s work will also yield jobs for residents while protecting the environmentally critical shoreline.

It’s estimated that the shoreline of the Canal del Infiernillo region can sequester 52,217 metric tonnes of CO2 if the coastal wetlands are protected. The amount of carbon is equivalent to not burning 5.8 million gallons of gasoline annually. Protecting the coastline will also help preserve the region’s biodiversity, including 249 species of birds, five endangered species of turtles and many other threatened wildlife.

DUMAC and the Seri community envision the project to illustrate an endeavor that simultaneously improves human lives and protects ecosystems. Once the project is complete, DUMAC will further collaborate with the Seri community on a 15-year conservation agreement to protect seagrass beds.

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“The lessons we learn through this project will be crucial as DUMAC continues to work with other First Nations (Seri and Yaqui) to maximize the conservation of their lands while improving the lives of their people,” said Eduardo Carrera, CEO of DUMAC. “The outcome of this project could guide the success of future ones that increase carbon sequestration and impact the world.”


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