Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Towards reef restoration in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, México: lessons learned


Pocillopora; restoration; Mexican Pacific; citizen science; coral reefs.
Pocillopora; restauración; Pacífico mexicano; ciencia ciudadana; arrecifes coralinos.

How to Cite

Nava, H., González-Rodríguez, A., Narchi, N. E., Méndez-Medina, A. C., Maldonado-López, Y., Cárdenas-Alvarado, M. A., Figueroa-Camacho, A. G., Drouet-Cruz, H. T., & Corona-Morales, N. (2023). Towards reef restoration in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, México: lessons learned. Revista De Biología Tropical, 71(S1), e54792.


Introduction: Coral reef structures in Zihuatanejo, Guerrero are well-preserved. The coverage of living corals, near 60 % at several locations, makes them comparable to other coral reefs in the states of Oaxaca, Jalisco, and Nayarit and with high potential to promote their conservation.

Objective: To present the outcome of 12 years of research in coral communities from Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, as a justifying argument for the current conservation efforts in the area.

Methods: We developed a baseline on the conservation status of the reef structures, bioerosion processes and the source of major natural and anthropogenic impacts. We assessed the genetic diversity of the coral zooxanthellae symbionts, the outcome of a technique of coral transplantation to recover the coverage of living corals and the local ecological knowledge to involve local inhabitants to promote conservation.

Results: At least five coral reefs remain exposed to a medium-low level of impact by bioerosion and anthropization. Coral transplantation experiments made in the area showed records of transplant survival nearing 90 %. Although the warming of the sea surface temperature that occurred during the El Niño of 2015-2016 caused coral bleaching and mortality in several coral populations in this area, there were no affectations attributed to this phenomenon in other locations. This response was not related to the level of exposure to anthropogenic impacts, and the presence of thermal resistant zooxanthellae was assessed using molecular tools, confirming the existence of zooxanthellae of the genus Durusdinium. The analysis of local ecological knowledge of the inhabitants of Zihuatanejo showed that they keep elaborate knowledge on the ecology of coral reefs. This is complemented with scientific knowledge that will encourage community participation in conservation strategies.

Conclusions: A long-term multidisciplinary strategy is required for coral reef conservation that encompasses: 1) assessing the role of the overall holobiont in the thermal resistance of corals from this area and 2) establishing restoration strategies of coral reefs that include the local knowledge about marine ecology, for the establishment of coral reef protection and management schemes put in place by local inhabitants.


Alvarado, J. J., Grassian, B., Cantera-Kintz, J. R., Carballo, J. L., & Londoño-Cruz, E. (2017). Coral reef bioerosion in the Eastern Tropical Pacific in P. W. Glynn, D. P. Manzello & I. C. Enochs (Eds.), Coral reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific (pp. 369–403). Springer.

Appril, A., & Gates, R. (2007). Recognizing diversity in coral symbiotic dinoflagellate communities. Molecular Ecology, 16(6), 1127–1134.

Baker, A. C., Starger, C., McClanahan, T. R., & Glynn, P. W. (2004). Corals’ adaptive response to climate change. Nature, 430(7001), 741–741.

Berlin, B. (2014). Ethnobiological classification: principles of categorization of plants and animals in traditional societies (Vol. 185). Princeton University Press.

Bernard, H. R. (1995). Research methods in anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches. Rowman & Littlefield.

Brener-Raffalli, K., Vidal-Dupiol, J., Adjeroud, M., Rey, O., Romans, P., Bonhomme, F., Pratlong, M., Haguenauer, A., Pillot, R., Feuillassier, L., Claereboudt, M., Magalon, H., Gélin, P., Pontarotti, P., Aurelle, D., Mita, G., & Toulza, E. (2022). Gene expression plasticity and frontloading promote thermotolerance in Pocillopora corals. Peer Community Journal, 2, e13.

Cabaitan, P. C., Yap, H.T., & Gomez, E. D. (2015). Performance of single versus mixed coral species for transplantation to restore degraded reefs. Restoration Ecology, 23(4), 349–356.

Carballo, J. L., Cruz-Barraza, J. A., Vega, C., Nava, H., & Chávez-Fuentes, M. D. C. (2019). Sponge diversity in Eastern Tropical Pacific coral reefs: an interoceanic comparison. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1–15.

Cárdenas-Alvarado, M. A., Nava, H., González-Rodríguez, A., Maldonado-López, Y., & Rodríguez-Lanetty, M. (2021). Higher population genetic diversity within the algal symbiont Durusdinium in Pocillopora verrucosa from Mexican Pacific reefs correlates with higher resistance to bleaching after the El Niño 2015–16 event. Marine Ecology, 42(4), e12667.

Casey, J. M., Connolly, S. R., & Ainsworth, T. D. (2015). Coral transplantation triggers shift in microbiome and promotion of coral disease associated potential pathogens. Scientific Reports, 5(1), 1–11.

Drouet-Cruz, H. T. (2020). El pescador y la mar: una mirada etnoecológica a la pesca y arrecifes de coral en Zihuatanejo de Azueta, Guerrero [Unpublished Bachelor’s thesis]. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México.

Edwards, A. J., & Gomez, E. D. (2007). Reef restoration concepts and guidelines: making sensible management choices in the face of uncertainty. Capacity Building for Management Programme. Coral Reef Targeted Research, Australia.

García, R. P., Alvarado, E. M. & Acosta, A. (1995). Regeneración de colonias y trasplante de fragmentos de Acropora Palmata (Cnidaria:Scleractinia) en el Parque Nacional Natural Corales del Rosario, Caribe Colombiano. Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas de Punta Betín, 24(1), 5–21.

Glynn, P. W., & Ault J. S. (2000). A biogeographic analysis and review of the far eastern Pacific coral reef region. Coral Reefs 19(1), 1–23.

Gómez E. D., Aliño P. M., Yap H. T., Licuanan W. Y. (1994). A review of the status of Philippine reefs. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 29(1-3), 62–68.

LaJeunesse, T. C, Parkinson, J. E., Gabrielson, P. W., Jeong, H. J., Reimer, J. D., Voolstra, C. R., & Santos, S. R. (2018). Systematic revision of Symbiodiniaceae highlights the antiquity and diversity of coral endosymbionts. Current Biology, 28(16), 1–11.

LaJeunesse, T. C., Pettay, D. T., Sampayo, E. M., Phongsuwan, N., Brown, B., Obura, D., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Fitt, W. K. (2010). Longstanding environmental conditions, geographic isolation and host symbiont specificity influence the relative ecological dominance and genetic diversification of coral endosymbionts in the genus Symbiodinium. Journal of Biogeography, 37(5), 785–800. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1365-2699.2010.02273.x

Li, J., Long, L., Zou, Y., & Zhang, S. (2021). Microbial community and transcriptional responses to increased temperatures in coral Pocillopora damicornis holobiont. Environmental microbiology, 23(2), 826–843.

Marlow, J., Schönberg, C. H., Davy, S. K., Haris, A., Jompa, J., & Bell, J. J. (2019). Bioeroding sponge assemblages: the importance of substrate availability and sediment. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 99(2), 343–358.

Muller-Parker, G., D’Elia, C. F., & Cook, C. B. (2015). Interactions between corals and their symbiotic algae. In C. Bikerland (Ed.), Coral Reefs in the Anthropocene (pp. 99–116). Springer.

Narchi, N. E., Cornier, S., Canu, D. M., Aguilar-Rosas, L. E., Bender, M. G., Jacquelin, C., Thiba, M., Moura, G. G. M., & De Wit, R. (2014). Marine ethnobiology a rather neglected area, which can provide an important contribution to ocean and coastal management. Ocean & Coastal Management, 89, 117–126.

Nava, H., & Figueroa-Camacho, A. G. (2017). Rehabilitation of damaged reefs: outcome of the use of recently broken coral fragments and healed coral fragments of pocilloporid corals on rocky boulders. Marine Ecology, 38(5), e12456.

Nava, H., García-Madrigal, C. A. E., & Carballo, J. L. (2019). Relationships between boring sponge assemblages and the availability of dead coral substrate on Mexican Pacific coral reefs. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 99(4), 795–805.

Nava, H., & Ramírez-Herrera, M. T. (2012). Land use changes and impact on coral communities along the central Pacific coast of Mexico. Environmental Earth Sciences, 65(4), 1095–1104.

Nava, H., López, N., Ramírez-García, P., & Garibay-Valladolid, E. (2021). Contrasting effects of the El Niño 2015–16 event on coral reefs from the central pacific coast of Mexico. Marine Ecology, 42(2), e12630.

Nava, H., Ramírez-Herrera, M. T., Figueroa-Camacho, A. G., & Villegas-Sanchez, B. M. (2014). Habitat characteristics and environmental factors related to boring sponge assemblages on coral reefs near populated coastal areas on the Mexican Eastern Pacific coast. Marine Biodiversity, 44(1), 45–54.

Oviedo, M. E. (2011). Viabilidad de trasplantes de coral Cuerno de Alce Acropora palmata (Lamarck, 1816) en el Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Caribe colombiano. Centro de Estudios de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia.

Quinlan, M. (2005). Considerations for Collecting Freelists in the Field: Examples from Eth-nobotany, Field Methods, 17(3), 219–234.

Rempel, H. S., Bodwin, K. N., & Ruttenberg, B. I. (2020). Impacts of parrotfish predation on a major reef-building coral: quantifying healing rates and thresholds of coral recovery. Coral Reefs, 39(5), 1441–1452.

Reyes-Bonilla, H. (2003). Biogeografía y ecología de los corales hermatípicos del Pacífico. In S. Salazar-Vallejo, & N. E. González (Eds.), Biodiversidad marina y costera de México (pp. 207–222). Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO) & Centro de Investigaciones de Quintana Roo (CIQRO).

Reyes-García, L. A. (2012). Control colonial en el siglo XVII. Geografía e Historia de Zihuatanejo de Azueta, Guerrero [Unpublished Bachelor’s thesis]. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México.

Ruiz, H. J., Ortiz, A. L., Nemeth, M. I., Scherer M. T., & Griffin, S. (2013). Casos de estudio en la restauración de arrecifes de coral de Puerto Rico [Paper presentation]. In L. M. Niño Martínez & M. C. Prada Triana (Eds.), Primer Simposio Internacional de la Administración Sostenible de los Archipiélagos Isla del Rosario y San Bernardo [Symposium]. Cartagena, Colombia.

Sánchez-Briones, A. G. (2010). Geografía e Historia del honorable municipio de Zihuatanejo de Azueta, Guerrero [Unpublished Bachelor’s thesis]. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México.

Schönberg, C. H., Fang, J. K. H., & Carballo, J. L. (2017). Bioeroding sponges and the future of coral reefs. In J. L. Carballo & J. Bell (Eds.), Climate change, ocean acidification and sponges (pp. 179–372). Springer.

Smith, J. J., Furbee, L., Maynard, K., Quick, S., & Ross, L. (1995). Saliency counts: A domain analysis of english color terms. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 5(2), 203–216.

Stat, M., Loh, W. K. W., LaJeunesse, T. C., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., & Carter, D. A. (2009). Stability of coral-endosymbiont association during and after a thermal stress event in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs, 28(3), 703–713.

Suzuki, G., Kai, S., Yamashita, H., Suzuki, K., Iehisa, Y., & Hayashibara, T. (2011). Narrower grid structure of artificial reef enhances initial survival of in situ settled coral. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62(12), 2803–2812.

Toh, T. C., Ng, C. S. L., Loke, H. X., Taira, D., Toh, K. B., Afiq-Rosli, L., Poquita-Du, R. C., Cabaitan, P., Sam, S. Q., Kikuzawa, Y. P., Chou, L. M., & Song, T. (2017). A cost-effective approach to enhance scleractinian diversity on artificial shorelines. Ecological Engineering, 99, 349–357.

Tong, F., Zhang, L., Mao Chen, P., & Cheng, J. (2018). Molecular taxonomy and diversity of Symbiodinium spp. based on 28S r DNA sequences within 15 coral species in Daao Bay, Shenzhen. Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering, 392, 1–9.

Tortolero-Langarica, J. J. A., Cupul-Magaña, A. L., & Rodríguez-Troncoso, A. P. (2014). Restoration of a degraded coral reef using a natural remediation process: A case study from a Central Mexican Pacific National Park. Ocean & Coastal Management, 96, 12–19.

Van Oppen, M. J. H., Mahiny, A. J., & Done, T. J. (2005). Geographic distribution of zooxanthellae types in three coral species on the Great Barrier Reef sampled after the 2002 bleaching event. Coral Reefs, 24(3), 482–487.

Van de Water, J. A. J. M., Tignat-Perrier, R., Allemand, D, & Ferrier-Pagés, C. (2022). Coral holobionts and biotechnology: from Blue Economy to coral reef conservation. Current Opinion in Biotechnology, 74, 110–121.

Wang, X., Wu, Z., Wu, Y., An, M., Zhou, Z., & Lin, S. (2021). Differential affinities of a Pocillopora damicornis galectin to five genera of Symbiodiniaceae at different temperatures. Frontiers in Marine Science, 8, 754808.


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Download data is not yet available.