Feature image projects

Golden Eagle / iStockPhoto

September 15, 2016.

CEMEX Cerrito Blanco Quarry Biodiversity Action Plan

A joint project between CEMEX, Birdlife International and its Mexican partner, Pronatura Noroeste, reveals crucial information for the conservation of Mexico’s national bird, the Golden Eagle

CEMEX

Slap-bang in the middle of the Mexican flag, clutching a snake in its talon, perched on top of a prickly pear cactus, is a Golden Eagle. With an impressive wingspan of over two metres, the Águila Real (Royal Eagle in Spanish) is a great choice for a national emblem. But as a top predator, it is also a good indicator for the health of the Mexican environment, as it relies on abundant prey.

The joint project is centred on CEMEX’s nearby Cerrito Blanco Quarry, set deep in the biodiverse Sonoran Desert.  The partnership – which began in 2012 – has undertaken field surveys for birds, mammals, plants, reptiles and amphibians, and assessed the potential impacts of human activities in the area. As part of this Biodiversity Action Plan to ensure good management of this sensitive area, CEMEX, Birdlife International and its Mexican partner,  Pronatura Noroeste, studied the abundance and distribution of Golden Eagles and organised a national workshop to find out more, but this process unearthed important information for the team: the Golden Eagle population is poorly understood nationally, let alone in the area around the quarry.

Despite a stable population trend when averaged out globally, the Golden Eagle is threatened in Mexico having been extirpated from most of its original range. The study found that over-grazing of native flora by cattle ranching is a factor, as it likely inhibits the abundance of prey availability for Golden Eagle and other top predators in the area like Mountain Lion.

The project is showing that this region is very important for the conservation of Golden Eagle, and giving a real insight into their lives. After a year of having fitted transmitters, five new breeding territories have been confirmed in Sonora in 2016. The project’s workshop also enabled the training of a skilled local Golden Eagle conservation team.

The next phases of the project include restoration of Sonoran grassland habitat, especially focussing on a tree-like cactus that reaches over 20 metres: the Saguaro. This cactus is recognised as a keystone species in the ecosystem, meaning it supports a wide variety of other life; particularly bats and birds, which use them to nest. Other current plans include engaging landowners since changes in cattle ranching are needed to benefit the whole ecosystem, including Golden Eagle.