Gulf of California

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Gulf of California
Wpdms nasa topo gulf of california.jpg
The Gulf of California (highlighted)
Coordinates 28°0′N112°0′W / 28.000°N 112.000°W / 28.000; -112.000 Coordinates: 28°0′N112°0′W / 28.000°N 112.000°W / 28.000; -112.000
River sources Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui
Ocean/sea sourcesPacific Ocean
Basin  countries Mexico
Max. length1,126 km (700 mi)
Max. width48–241 km (30–150 mi)
Surface area160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi)
Islands 37
References [1]
Official nameIslands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California
TypeNatural
Criteriavii, ix, x
Designated2005
Reference no. 1182
State PartyMexico
Region Latin America and the Caribbean

The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez, Sea of Cortés (named for Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés) or Vermilion Sea; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California) is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland. It is bordered by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa with a coastline of approximately 4,000 km (2,500 mi). Rivers which flow into the Gulf of California include the Colorado, Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. The gulf's surface area is about 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi). Depths range from fording at the estuary near Yuma, Arizona, to in excess of 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) in the deepest parts. [2]

Hernán Cortés Spanish conquistador

Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Contents

The Gulf is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and is home to more than 5,000 species of micro-invertebrates. [3] Home to over a million people, Baja California is the second-longest peninsula in the world, after the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia. [2] Parts of the Gulf of California are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Malay Peninsula peninsula in Southeast Asia

The Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southernmost point of the Asian mainland. The area contains Peninsular Malaysia, Southern Thailand, and the southernmost tip of Myanmar (Kawthaung) as well as the city state Singapore, indigenous to or historically inhabited by the Malays, an Austronesian people.

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

World Heritage Site place listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or natural significance

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.

Geography

Area

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the Gulf of California as: "A line joining Piaxtla Point (23°38'N) in Mexico, and the southern extreme of Lower California". [4]

International Hydrographic Organization Intergovernmental organization

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) is the inter-governmental organisation representing hydrography.

Baja California Peninsula peninsula of North America on the Pacific Coast of Mexico

The Baja California Peninsula is a peninsula in Northwestern Mexico. It separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The peninsula extends 1,247 km from Mexicali, Baja California in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in the south. It ranges from 40 km at its narrowest to 320 km at its widest point and has approximately 3,000 km of coastline and approximately 65 islands. The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi).

The Gulf of California is 1,126 km (700 mi) long and 48–241 km (30–150 mi) wide, with an area of 177,000 km2 (68,000 sq mi), a mean depth of 818.08 m (2,684.0 ft), and a volume of 145,000 km3 (35,000 cu mi). [1]

The Gulf of California includes three faunal regions:

  1. the Northern Gulf of California
  2. the Central Gulf of California
  3. the Southern Gulf of California

One recognized transition zone is termed the Southwestern Baja California Peninsula. Transition zones exist between faunal regions, and they usually vary for each individual species. (Faunal regions are distinguishable based on the specific types of animals found there. [5] )

Geology
Satellite picture of gulf. Gulf of California.jpg
Satellite picture of gulf.

Geologic evidence is widely interpreted by geologists as indicating the Gulf of California came into being around 5.3 million years ago as tectonic forces rifted the Baja California Peninsula off the North American Plate. [6] As part of this process, the East Pacific Rise propagated up the middle of the Gulf along the seabed. This extension of the East Pacific Rise is often referred to as the Gulf of California Rift Zone. The Gulf would extend as far as Indio, California, except for the tremendous delta created by the Colorado River. This delta blocks the sea from flooding the Mexicali and Imperial Valleys. Volcanism dominates the East Pacific Rise. The island of Isla Tortuga is one example of this ongoing volcanic activity. [7] Furthermore, hydrothermal vents due to extension tectonic regime, related to the opening of the Gulf of California, are found in the Bahía de Concepción, Baja California Sur. [8]

Plate tectonics The scientific theory that describes the large-scale motions of Earths lithosphere

Plate tectonics is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth's lithosphere, since tectonic processes began on Earth between 3 and 3.5 billion years ago. The model builds on the concept of continental drift, an idea developed during the first decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

North American Plate Large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and a bit of Siberia

The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, extreme northeastern Asia, and parts of Iceland and the Azores. It extends eastward to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and westward to the Chersky Range in eastern Siberia. The plate includes both continental and oceanic crust. The interior of the main continental landmass includes an extensive granitic core called a craton. Along most of the edges of this craton are fragments of crustal material called terranes, accreted to the craton by tectonic actions over a long span of time. It is thought that much of North America west of the Rocky Mountains is composed of such terranes.

East Pacific Rise A mid-oceanic ridge at a divergent tectonic plate boundary on the floor of the Pacific Ocean

The East Pacific Rise is a mid-oceanic ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Pacific Ocean. It separates the Pacific Plate to the west from the North American Plate, the Rivera Plate, the Cocos Plate, the Nazca Plate, and the Antarctic Plate. It runs south from the Gulf of California in the Salton Sea basin in Southern California to a point near 55° S, 130° W, where it joins the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge trending west-southwest towards Antarctica, near New Zealand. Much of the rise lies about 3200 km (2000 mi) off the South American coast and rises about 1,800–2,700 m (6,000–9,000 ft) above the surrounding seafloor.

Islands

The Gulf of California contains 37 major islands – the two largest being Isla Ángel de la Guarda and Tiburón Island. Most of the islands are found on the peninsular side of the gulf. In fact, many of the islands of the Sea of Cortez are the result of volcanic explosions that occurred during the early history of Baja California. The islands of Islas Marías, Islas San Francisco, and Isla Partida are thought to be the result of such explosions. The formations of the islands, however, are not dependent on each other. They were each formed as a result of an individual structural occurrence. [2] Several islands, including Isla Coronados, are home to volcanoes.

The gulf has more than 900 islets and islands which together total about 420 hectares. All of them as a whole were enacted as "Area Reserve and Migratory Bird Refuge and Wildlife" on August 2, 1978. In June 2000, the islands were given a new category "Protection Area Wildlife". In addition to this effort by the Mexican government, for its importance and recognition worldwide, all islands in the Gulf of California are also part of the international program "Man and Biosphere" (MAB) and are part of the World Reserve Network UNESCO Biosphere as Special Biosphere Reserve. Due to the vast expanse covered by this federal protected area conservation and management is carried out through a system of four regional directorates (one per bordering the Gulf of California state) by way of co-direction. There is a regional directorate in the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the work of direct and indirect conservation is done in the islands is governed by a single Management Program, published in 2000, which is complemented by local and specific management programs (at individuals) archipelagos. The Directorate of Protection Area Wildlife California Gulf Islands (APFF-GCR) in Baja California is responsible for 56 islands located off the coast of the state. These are grouped into four archipelagos: San Luis Gonzaga or Enchanted, Guardian Angel, Bahia de los Angeles and San Lorenzo. [9] [10]

Shores and tides

The three general types of shores found in the Gulf of California include rocky shore, sandy beach, and tidal flat. Some of the rich biodiversity and high endemism that characterize the Gulf of California and make it such a hotspot for fishing can be attributed to seemingly insignificant factors, such as the types of rocks that make up a shore. Beaches with softer, more porous rocks (such as Coquina limestone, rhyolites, granite, or diorite) generally have a higher species richness than those with harder, smoother rocks (such as basalt or diabase). Porous rocks will naturally have more cracks and crevices in them, making them ideal living spaces for many animals. The rocks themselves, however, generally need to be stable on the shore for a habitat to be stable. Additionally, the color of the rocks can affect the organisms living on a shore. For example, darker rocks will be significantly warmer than lighter ones, and can deter animals that do not have a high tolerance for heat. [2] The northern Gulf of California experiences tidal ranges of up to 5 m (16 ft). Mixed semidiurnal tides are the norm throughout most of the Gulf.

Estuaries

In the Gulf of California, there are a number of negative estuaries, that is, ones in which the evaporation of seawater is relatively greater than that of the fresh water input. The salinities of these inlets are higher than that of the ocean. The temperatures, poikilothermal, of these negative estuaries also are higher than the general temperature of the Gulf.

It is possible that at one time these estuaries were positive, that is, ones in which the seawater component is diluted; therefore, the water is brackish, with salinity less than that of the ocean.

However, due to human modification of the land use around the Gulf of California and water diversion for municipal and agricultural use, there are no longer many rivers that freely empty into the Gulf of California. The upper Colorado River Delta is one example of a historically major estuary and wetlands ecosystem, that since the 20th century construction of upriver dams and diversion aqueducts on the Colorado River, is now a small ephemeral remnant estuary. The remaining Gulf inlets still are important to several species of fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish that are commercially harvested. [2]

Climate

Air

Even though the shores of the Gulf of California are generally sheltered from the continuous wave shock that is experienced by most other North American shores, storms known as a "chubasco" can cause significant damage to shorelines, despite their brevity. [2]

Ocean

The depth of the water helps to determine its temperature. For example, shallow depths are directly influenced by the local temperature of the air, while deeper waters are less susceptible to changes in air temperature. [2] The temperature of the water in the Gulf of California generally experiences lows of 16 °C (61 °F) in winter and highs of 24 °C (75 °F) in summer. But temperatures can vary greatly in the gulf, and the water is almost always warmer by the coast than the open ocean. For example, the waters surrounding La Paz reach 30 °C (86 °F) in August, while the waters in neighboring city Cabo San Lucas, only reach 26 °C (79 °F). [1] [11] [12] [13]

Occasionally, the northern Gulf of California will go through significantly cold winters. The water in the Northern Gulf can sometimes drop below 8 °C (46 °F), which can lead to a large die-off of marine organisms. The animals most susceptible to the large decrease in water temperature include macroscopic algae and plankton. [2]

Average sea temperatures of Puerto Peñasco [12]
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
17 °C

63 °F

16 °C

61 °F

17 °C

63 °F

19 °C

66 °F

21 °C

70 °F

23 °C

73 °F

26 °C

79 °F

28 °C

82 °F

28 °C

82 °F

26 °C

79 °F

23 °C

73 °F

19 °C

66 °F

Average sea temperatures of La Paz [11]
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
19 °C

66 °F

19 °C

66 °F

21 °C

70 °F

23 °C

73 °F

25 °C

77 °F

27 °C

81 °F

28 °C

82 °F

30 °C

85 °F

28 °C

82 °F

27 °C

81 °F

24 °C

75 °F

21 °C

70 °F

Average sea temperatures of Cabo San Lucas [14]
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
20 °C

68 °F

19 °C

66 °F

19 °C

66 °F

19 °C

66 °F

20 °C

68 °F

21 °C

70 °F

24 °C

75 °F

26 °C

79 °F

26 °C

79 °F

26 °C

79 °F

24 °C

75 °F

22 °C

72 °F

Marine life

Giant Pacific manta ray Giant pacific manta.jpg
Giant Pacific manta ray

The narrow sea is home to a rich ecosystem. In addition to a wide range of endemic creatures, such as the critically endangered vaquita, it hosts many migratory species, such as the humpback whale, California gray whale, killer whale, manta ray, Humboldt squid and leatherback sea turtle, and the world's largest animal, the blue whale. The unusual resident populations of fin whales and sperm whales do not migrate annually. The area near the delta of the Colorado river has a small remnant population of the totoaba fish. This region has historically been a magnet for world-class sport fishing activities, with a rich history of sporting world records.

The region also has a rich history as a commercial fishery. However, the data vary wildly according to the species being studied, and the Gulf's ability to recuperate after years of overfishing remains uncertain. Moreover, changes in terrestrial ecology, such as the vast reduction in flow from the Colorado River into the Gulf, have negatively affected fisheries, particularly in the northern region.

The Gulf of California sustains a large number of marine mammals, many of which are rare and endangered. Its more than 900 islands are important nesting sites for thousands of seabirds, and its waters are primary breeding, feeding, and nursing grounds for myriad migratory and resident fish species. For decades, the gulf has been a primary source of two of Mexico's leading marine resources, sardines and anchovies. Water pollution is a problem in the Gulf of California, but the more immediate concerns are overfishing and bottom trawling, which destroys eelgrass beds and shellfish.

Efforts by the Mexican government to create conservation zones and nature reserves have been hampered by lack of enforcement resources, as well as a lack of a political consensus on this issue of conservation of the Gulf.[ citation needed ] This occurs even though significant areas are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The thousands of miles of coastline are remote and difficult to police, and the politically powerful commercial fishing industry has been slow to embrace even economically viable conservation measures, much less strict measures of conservation. Conservation of the Gulf's fisheries and coastlines is also complicated by a long history of overcapitalization in the sector, and the direct, often negative, impacts that conservation measures have on the livelihoods of Mexico's coastal inhabitants. At present, the Mexican government and business interests have promoted a macro-level, tourist development vision for the Gulf, the impacts of which on local ecology and society are uncertain.

Coastal communities are highly reliant on both commercial and sport fishing, including San Felipe, San Carlos, Sonora, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Guaymas, Bahía Kino, Puerto Peñasco, Topolobampo and Mulegé. The well-developed shrimp and sardine fleets of Mazatlán, on the Mexican mainland's Pacific coast, heavily exploit the commercial fisheries of the southern Gulf.

Many marine organisms can only survive within a particular salinity range, which makes salinity a notable factor in determining the types of potentially commercial organisms found in the Gulf of California. The mean annual ranges of salinity of the Sea of Cortez are between 3.5 and 3.58% at the surface. [1] Furthermore, the salinity of the water of the Northern Gulf of California is generally higher than the Central and Southern faunal regions due to the increased amount of evaporation that occurs in that region. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Bahía de los Ángeles Place in Baja California, Mexico

Bahía de los Ángeles is a coastal bay on the Gulf of California, located along the eastern shore of the Baja California Peninsula in the state of Baja California, Mexico. The town of the same name is located at the east end of Federal Highway 12 about 42 miles (68 km) from the Parador Punta Prieta junction on Federal Highway 1. The area is part of the Ensenada Municipality.

La Paz, Baja California Sur City in Baja California Sur, Mexico

La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur and an important regional commercial center. The city had a 2015 census population of 244,219 inhabitants, making it the most populous city in the state. Its metropolitan population is somewhat larger because of the surrounding towns, such as El Centenario, Chametla and San Pedro. It is in La Paz Municipality, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Mexico in geographical size and reported a population of 290,286 inhabitants on a land area of 20,275 km2 (7,828 sq mi).

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Isla Ángel de la Guarda island in Baja California, Mexico

Isla Ángel de la Guarda, also called Archangel Island, is a large island in the Gulf of California east of Bahía de los Ángeles in northwestern Mexico, separated from the Baja California Peninsula by the Canal de Ballenas. It is the second largest of the eleven Midriff Islands or Islas Grandes. It is part of the state of Baja California, located northwest of Tiburón Island. The island is uninhabited, and is a biological reserve called Isla Angel de la Guarda National Park. The island is part of the Mexicali municipality.

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Lower Colorado River Valley

The Lower Colorado River Valley ("LCRV") is the river region of the lower Colorado River of the southwestern United States in North America that rises in the Rocky Mountains and has its outlet at the Colorado River Delta in the northern Gulf of California in northwestern Mexico, between the states of Baja California and Sonora. This north–south stretch of the Colorado River forms the border between the U.S. states of California/Arizona and Nevada/Arizona, and between the Mexican states of Baja California/Sonora.

Isla Coronado island

Isla Coronado, also known as “Smith Island” on some maps, is just off the eastern shoreline of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, near Bahía de los Ángeles, in the Gulf of California. The island is approximately 7 kilometers long, and it is dominated by a volcano on its northern end. It is part of the Ensenada Municipality.

Isla Mitlan

Isla Mitlán, is an island in the Gulf of California, located within Bahía de los Ángeles east of the Baja California Peninsula. It is adjacent to the west coast of Isla Coronado.The island is uninhabited and is part of the Ensenada Municipality.

San Luis Río Colorado is a municipality in Sonora state, in northwestern Mexico.

San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago National Park

San Lorenzo Marine Archipelago National Park is a national park of Mexico located on San Lorenzo Island part of an archipelago in the Gulf of California off the eastern coast of Baja California. The San Lorenzo Archipelago is considered one of the most important ecological areas of the Gulf of California. The Island and surrounding areas are part of a rich ecosystem comprised by a grand variety of flora and marine fauna. This area is protected by the Mexican federal government Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001 because of its importance as a habitat for several endangered species. The Archipelago is part of the municipality of Mexicali, Baja California. The island is located southeast of the city separated by the Salsipuedes Channel.

Sea urchins of the Gulf of California

The sea urchins of the Gulf of California live between the coasts of the Baja California Peninsula to the west and mainland state of Sonora, Mexico to the east. The northern boundary is the lateral band of land with the remains of the Colorado River Delta, and the southern is the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Coast of Mexico or West Coast of Mexico stretches along the coasts of western Mexico at the Pacific Ocean and its Gulf of California.

San Pedro Mártir Island

San Pedro Mártir is the name of an island of Mexico, located in the Gulf of California, about halfway between the coast of Baja California and Sonora. San Pedro Mártir is located in the center of the Gulf of California and is the most remote island in the Sea of Cortez. It is located 51 km from Baja California and 53 km off the coast of Sonora. The island is 2 km long and 1.5 km maximum width, with a total of 2,729 km2 of total area. The island is uninhabited and is 60 km from Bahía Kino, the nearest city in the state of Sonora on the west coast.

Isla Cabeza de Caballo

Isla Cabeza de Caballo, or Head of the Horse, is an island in the Gulf of California, located within Bahía de los Ángeles east of the Baja California Peninsula. The island is uninhabited and is part of the Ensenada Municipality. There is a lighthouse located on Isla Cabeza de Caballo along the channel into the harbor of Bahía de los Ángeles.

Isla Piojo

Isla Piojo, or Lice Island, is an island in the Gulf of California, located within Bahía de los Ángeles east of the Baja California Peninsula. The island is uninhabited and is part of the Ensenada Municipality.

Bahía de Loreto National Park

Bahía de Loreto National Park is a national park on the east coast of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, about 203 kilometres (126 mi) north of the city of La Paz in the state of Baja California Sur. The park protects 2,065.81 square kilometres (797.61 sq mi) of relatively pristine marine ecosystem in the central Sea of Cortez, including five large uninhabited islands and many smaller islets in Loreto Bay. It is known for its great variety of coastal environments, such as sandy beaches, sea cliffs, submarine canyons, and marine terraces, and is home to an exceptionally high biological diversity, especially of marine mammals.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 Rebekah K. Nix. "The Gulf of California: A Physical, Geological, and Biological Study" (PDF). University of Texas at Dallas. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Richard C. Brusca (1973). A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press. pp. 10–15. ISBN   978-0-8165-0356-8.
  3. Ernesto Campos, Alma Rosa de Campos & Jesús Angel de León-González (2009). "Diversity and ecological remarks of ectocommensals and ectoparasites (Annelida, Crustacea, Mollusca) of echinoids (Echinoidea: Mellitidae) in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico". Parasitology Research . 105 (2): 479–487. doi:10.1007/s00436-009-1419-8. PMID   19337754.
  4. "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition" (PDF). International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. p. 35.
  5. "The Gulf of California Invertebrate Database: The Invertebrate Portion of the Macrofauna Golfo Database". Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Center for Sonoran Desert Studies.
  6. Hamilton, W.B., 1961, Origin of the Gulf of California: GSA Bull., 72, 1307–1318.
  7. "Science Plans RCL". review.nsf-margins.org. Retrieved May 27, 2008.
  8. Leal-Acosta, M.L., Prol-Ledesma, R.M. (2016). "Caracterización geoquímica de las manifestaciones termales intermareales de Bahía Concepción en la Península de Baja California" (PDF). Boletín de la Sociedad Geológica Mexicana (in Spanish). 68 (3): 395–407.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. "Valle de los Cirios. Tesoro de Baja California". 14 July 2010.
  10. "Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna Islas del Golfo de California en Baja California".
  11. 1 2 Archived December 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. 1 2 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-15. Retrieved 2012-06-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  13. "Marine Biology of Baja California". Math.ucr.edu. Retrieved 2013-12-08.
  14. "San Jorge Water Temperature (Sea) and Wetsuit Guide (Baja Sur, Mexico)". Surf-forecast.com. Retrieved 2013-12-08.

Further reading