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Coordinates: 28°0′N 112°0′W / 28°N 112°W / 28; -112

"Sea of Cortez" redirects here. For the book by John Steinbeck, see The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

John Steinbeck, well known for his novel The Grapes of Wrath, also had a rapt interest in marine biology. He studied the subject at Stanford University, although he did not graduate from there. From March 11 to April 20, 1940,[1] Steinbeck and his friend Ed Ricketts (a professional biologist) made a trip through the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) on a Monterey Bay fishing boat called The Western Flyer, collecting specimens along the way. This trip resulted in the publishing of a book by Ricketts and Steinbeck called The Sea of Cortez (with the narrative section reprinted as The Log from the Sea of Cortez). This non-fiction book comprises logs of the many encounters of the men, ranging from to the marine life to the weather to philosophy.[2]

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California*
UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wpdms nasa topo gulf of california.jpg
The Gulf of California (highlighted)
State Party  Mexico
Type Natural
Criteria vii, ix, x
Reference 1182
Region** Latin America and the Caribbean
Inscription history
Inscription 2005  (29th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés or Vermilion Sea; locally known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California) is a body of water 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 2500 miles (4000km). 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 62,000 square miles (160,000 km²). The name "Gulf of California" predominates on most maps in English today. The name "Sea of Cortés" is the one preferred by most local residents. The Gulf is thought to be one of the most diverse seas on the planet, and it is home to more than 5,000 species of macroinvertebrates.[3] Baja California itself is actually one of the longest, most isolated peninsulas in the world, second only to the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.[4]

Contents

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the southern limit of the Gulf of California as: "A line joining Piastla Point (23°38'N) in Mexico, and the Southern extreme of Lower California".[5] The dimensions of the Gulf of California consists of a length of 1,126 kilometers (700 miles), widths between 48-241 kilometers (30-50 miles), an area of 177,000 kilometers (68,322 miles), a mean depth of 9,818 meters (2,684 ft), and a volume of 145,000 kilometers (34,985 miles).[6] The Gulf of California can be separated into three faunal regions, which include the Northern Gulf of California, the Central Gulf of California, and 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 that are found there.[7]

Geology

Geologic evidence indicates that the Gulf of California came into being 5.3 million years ago as tectonic forces rifted the Baja California Peninsula off the North American Plate. As part of this process, the East Pacific Rise propagated up the middle of the Gulf along the seabottom. 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.[8]

Weather

The average temperature of the Pacific coast of the of Baja California is between 16-24°C (60-75°F).[9] 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.[10] Occasionally, the Northern Gulf of California will go through significantly cold winters. This relates to the marine organisms because the water in the Northern Gulf can sometimes drop below 8°C, which in turn culminates in a large die-off of marine organisms. The animals that are most susceptible to this massive decrease in water temperature include macroscopic algae and plankton.[11]

Fishery

Giant Pacific Manta Ray

The narrow sea is home to a unique and rich ecosystem. In addition to a wide range of endemic creatures, like the critically endangered Vaquita Marina, it hosts many migratory species, such as the Humpback Whale, California Gray Whale, Killer Whale, Manta Ray and Leatherback Sea Turtle, and the world's largest animal, the Blue Whale. There are unusual resident populations of Fin Whales and Sperm Whales that do not migrate annually. This region has historically been a magnet for world class sport fishing activities, with a rich history of sporting world records.

On March 19, 2009, The History Channel's TV Show MonsterQuest investigated a report of a 60 ft. long shark in the Sea of Cortez, dubbed "The Black Demon" by the locals. They believed it to be the Megalodon, a super predator long thought to be extinct. They had numerous sightings of the creature, and on the final sighting, their divers went under water but only discovered a whale shark.

The region also has a rich history as a commercial fishery. However, the data varies wildly according to the species being studied, and the Gulf's ability to recuperate after years of over fishing 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 a primary breeding, feeding, and nursing grounds for a myriad of 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 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. 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 over-capitalization 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, whose impacts on local ecology and society are uncertain.

Coastal communities that are highly reliant on both commercial and sport fishing include San Felipe, San Carlos, Sonora, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Loreto, Guaymas, Bahia de Kino, Puerto Penasco, 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 1.3 to 2.5 parts per thousand. 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.[12]

Shores and Tides

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 characterizes the Gulf of California and makes 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 in order 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.[13] The Gulf of California is home to some of the largest tides in the world. They encompass 20 to 30 feet of vertical displacement while going through a semidiurnal tidal pattern, which is related to the positions of the sun relative to the earth and moon. A semidiurnal tidal pattern is one that occurs every 12 hours.[14]

Estuaries

An estuary is an inlet, or bay, wherein the salt water from the ocean is mixed with fresh water from a different source. A positive estuary is one in which the seawater component is diluted; therefore, the salinity is less then that of the ocean. A negative estuary is an estuary 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. In the Gulf of California, there can be found a number of negative estuaries, which were possibly at one point positive. However, due to human modification of the land around the Gulf of California (agriculture), there are not many rivers that run into the Gulf of California. The temperatures of these negative estuaries also are higher than the general temperature of the Gulf. It just so happens that these inlets are important to several species of fishes, crustaceans, and shellfish that are commercially imperative.[15]

Islands

The Gulf of California contains 37 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 results of volcanic explosions that occurred during the early history of Baja California. The islands of Islas Marías, Islas San Francisco, and Isla Partida are islands that are thought the be the results of such explosions. The formations of the islands, however, cannot be said to be dependent on each other. In other words, the islands of the Gulf of California were each formed as a result of an individual structural occurrence.[16]

Several islands, including Isla Coronado, are home to active volcanoes.

Bathymetry

Depth soundings in the gulf have ranged from fording depth at the estuary near Yuma, Arizona to in excess of 3000 m (9840 ft) in the deepest parts. 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.[17]

References

  1. ^ “The Log from the Sea of Cortez Study Guide”. Bookrags. http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-the-log-from-the-sea-of-cortez/plot.html
  2. ^ “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. EcoTopia: A design strategy for the new millennium. http://ecotopia.org/log-from-sea-of-cortez/.
  3. ^ Campos E, de Campos AR, and de Le̐ưon-Gonz̐ưalez JA. "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 (2009): 479-87.
  4. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 10.
  5. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. http://www.iho-ohi.net/iho_pubs/standard/S-23/S23_1953.pdf. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  6. ^ “The Gulf of California: A Physical, Geological, and Biological Study”. http://www.utdallas.edu/~rnix/MAT-SE_Units/gulf_cal.pdf
  7. ^ “The Gulf of California Invertebrate Database: The Invertebrate Portion of the Macrofauna Golfo Database”. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: Center for Sonoran Desert Studies. http://www.desertmuseum.org/center/seaofcortez/database.php
  8. ^ "Science Plans RCL". review.nsf-margins.org. http://review.nsf-margins.org/SPRCL.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  9. ^ “The Gulf of California: A Physical, Geological, and Biological Study”. http://www.utdallas.edu/~rnix/MAT-SE_Units/gulf_cal.pdf Page 5.
  10. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 11.
  11. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 14.
  12. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 14.
  13. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 11.
  14. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 24.
  15. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 15.
  16. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 12.
  17. ^ Brusca, Richard C. A Handbook to the Common Intertidal Invertebrates of the Gulf of California. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973. Page 14.

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

Proper noun

Gulf of California

  1. a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland

Translations

Synonyms

  • Sea of Cortez
  • Sea of Cortés

Simple English

The Gulf of California (also named as the Sea of Cortez or Sea of Cortés; and nearby is known in the Spanish language as Mar de Cortés or Mar Bermejo or Golfo de California) is a area of water that is inbetween the Baja California Peninsula and Mexican mainland. It is surrounded by the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, and Sinaloa. The name "Gulf of California" is on most maps in English today. The name "Sea of Cortés" is the one preferred by local people. The Gulf was made 5.3 million years ago, changing the flow of the Colorado River. Other rivers which also flow into the Gulf of California are the Fuerte, Mayo, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Yaqui. Its area is about 160,000 km² (62,000 square miles).

Contents

Geology

The Gulf of California was made as parts of the planets surface moved the Baja California Peninsula off of the North American Plate. As part of this process, the East Pacific Rise formed along the middle of the Gulf along the bottom of the sea. The Gulf would go as far as Indio, California if there wasn't a large river delta made by the Colorado River. This delta blocks the sea from flooding the Mexicali and Imperial Valleys. Volcanoes can be found along the East Pacific Rise. The island of Isla Tortuga is one example of the volcanoes found.[1]

Islands

The Gulf of California has two large islands, the Isla Ángel de la Guarda and Tiburón Island. It also has several smaller ones, including Isla Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida which is joined to it by a small bit of land.

References

  1. "Science Plans RCL". review.nsf-margins.org. http://review.nsf-margins.org/SPRCL.html. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 

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