375 Borlaug Hall
Akumal (place of the turtles in Maya) is a small Mexican resort town established by divers in the late 1950s on the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, now known as the Riviera Maya. With the establishment of Cancun in the mid 1970s, the region has been heavily promoted for tourism development and seen more than a 70-fold increase in tourism since 1990. Playa del Carmen, a fishing village of 200 in 1980 expanded to 40,000 in 2000 and 300,000 by 2020. The region is karst with no running surface waters but extensive underground rivers with their associated openings to the surface (cenotes). This rapid increase in development has led to concerns for waste management, groundwater contamination, and coastal eutrophication, as well as direct impacts of tourists on nesting and feeding turtles and coral reefs. In part due to a local ecological center (CEA, Centro Ecologico Akumal) there is an extensive literature base on social and economic impacts, water quality and waste management, karst geology and cave systems, turtles, corals and coastal marine ecology that can be used to develop further studies. I will review development of the region, some of these impacts and my sabbatical work mapping bathymetry, seagrass, and water parameters in several bays in the area.