- > 100 ft
- Currently a Ramsar Site
- Listed on more than one “valuable wetland” list by natural resource agencies or nongovernment organizations.
- Protects biological diverse wetland flora, fauna and/or their habitat
- Supports significant numbers of wetland-dependent fauna, such as water birds or fish
- Rare or unique wetland type within its own biogeographical region. (Meeting this criteria would include, but is not limited to, wetlands with unique hydrology or chemistry that make it rare within its own region)
The Cuatrociénegas wetlands complex, considered one of the most important wetlands in Mexico, is located in the deserts of Northern Mexico Highlands. Designated as a Ramsar Site in 2002, this ‘Protected Natural Area of Flora and Fauna’ occupies more than 840 Km2 of aquatic ecosystems represented by springs, permanent streams, and flooded areas where the water from the springs is concentrated, locally known as 'pools'. These blue pools mimic Precambrian ancient sea composition and harbor live stromatolites, a bacterial form of life that once dominated the oceans. A large number of endemic species inhabit Cuatrociénegas wetlands. Although fish have been the most studied, the wealth of invertebrates discovered has increased the list of endemism. The Cuatrociénegas valley region is determined as an oasis from the anthropological point of view. This region was important for several nomadic groups, so it is possible to find some artifacts such as arrowheads and spears. Cuatrociénegas is a unique ecosystem complex that harbors several endemic and endangered species, has a beautiful scenic landscape, and is a crucial source of water for people, agriculture, and wildlife.
- Maintains ecological connectivity/cohesion
- Aesthetic/cultural heritage value/ provisioning
- Recreation (birdwatching, ecotourism)
- Aquifer recharge
- Water quality improvement
- Inland Fresh Meadow
- Inland Open Fresh Water
Medina-Chávez, N. O., De la Torre-Zavala, S., Arreola-Triana, A. E., & Souza, V. (2020). Cuatro Ciénegas as an Archaean Astrobiology Park. In Astrobiology and Cuatro Ciénegas Basin as an Analog of Early Earth (pp. 219-228). Springer, Cham.
Ochoterena, H., Flores-Olvera, H., Gómez-Hinostrosa, C., & Moore, M. J. (2020). Gypsum and plant species: a marvel of Cuatro Ciénegas and the Chihuahuan Desert. In Plant Diversity and Ecology in the Chihuahuan Desert (pp. 129-165). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-44963-6_9
Souza, V., Moreno-Letelier, A., Travisano, M., Alcaraz, L. D., Olmedo, G., & Eguiarte, L. E. (2018). The lost world of Cuatro Cienegas Basin, a relictual bacterial niche in a desert oasis. Elife, 7, e38278. https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.38278.016
Cuatrociénegas region has a complex mosaic of soils with different gypsum contents, ranging from massive, ancient gypsum evaporite bedrock, crystalline selenite, and anhydrite to very recent formations of secondary evaporites, often mixed with other salts, and gypsum dunes. There is a very high ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus (167: 1) in the sediment of the Cuatrociénegas hydrological system and extremely unbalanced nutrient stoichiometry. In this extremely diverse wetland, the recycling of the deep aquifer by magmatic heat replicates the conditions of many ancient oceans.