Authors:F.A. Rodríguez-Zaragoza, M. Ortiz, F. Berrios, L. Campos, A. de Jesús-Navarrete, J. Castro-Pérez, A. Hernández-Flores, M. García-Rivas, F. Fonseca-Peralta, and E. Gallegos-Aguilar
Banco Chinchorro is the largest reef in the Mexican Caribbean. Historically, spiny lobster, queen conch and over 20 other reef species have been exploited here. Multispecies intervention management from an ecosystem perspective has been developed in this area; however, an assessment of the effects of such practices on ecosystem health is required. Five quantitative trophic models were constructed using Ecopath with Ecosim. The results show that, in terms of biomass, benthic autotrophs are the dominant group in all communities. Ecosystem Network Analysis indices showed that Cueva de Tiburones was the most mature, developed, complex and healthy subsystem, but, El Colorado and La Baliza were the subsystems most resistant to disturbances. The fisheries mainly concentrate on primary (La Baliza and Cueva de Tiburones sites) and secondary consumers (La Caldera, Chancay, and El Colorado). The greatest propagation of direct and indirect effects, estimated by Mixed Trophic Impacts and Ecosim simulations, were generated by the benthic autotrophs, small benthic epifauna, benthic-pelagic carnivorous fish and benthic carnivorous fish, among others. In contrast, the System Recovery Time showed different patterns among subsystems, indicating several compartments that reduce resilience. Considering the structure, dynamics, trophic functioning and ecosystem health of Banco Chinchorro, its ecological heterogeneity highlights the need for the design of a specific (by subsystem) management strategy, particularly because different species or functional groups present greater sensitivity to human interventions in each community.