Cozumel: underground secrets

Tania Escobar Series, Voces del Mar

A group of underground explorers are discovering the secrets held within the fragile network of caves and underground rivers of the island of Cozumel.

For thousands of years, rainwater filtered through the karst landscapes of the island of Cozumel has created caves and underground canals. Collapsed roofs of the caves have opened
windows to the groundwater, forming cenotes, the emblematic ecosystem of the region.

Due to the isolation and to the specificities of their food web, cenotes have led to the evolution of species and unique ecosystems, linked to the reefs by changes in water flow and by injecting freshwater into the marine environment. A group of speleologists, explorers, and scientists work to understand the peculiarities of these enigmatic ecosystems.

In recent decades, the pressure generated by urban sprawl and a massive increase in tourism activities have disrupted the fragile environmental balance of the cenotes, threatening the reef systems on which almost the entire economy of the region depends. Against this background, the information gathered by this group of researchers is vital for the implementation of sustainable management techniques in the region.