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Major Threats and Conservation Record Mexico is a treasure trove of biodiversity
and a center of endemic species - those that occur only in one place and
probably holds more species of plants and animals than any other country on
For instance, there are some 30,000 plant species, of which between 50% and 60%
are endemic; 49 species of pines (more than half the world's total); 394 mammals
; about 1000 birds, 693 reptiles; 285 amphibians, and more than 2000 fish.
As of the mid-1990s, many species were known to be already threatened: 64
mammals, 36 birds, 18 reptiles, 3 amphibians, and about 85 fish.
Wildlife surveys, in addition to identifying and counting species, note where
they are located and in which habitat types they occur, so that biologists can
target and prioritize geographic regions and habitats for conservation
Areas along the Yucatan Peninsula's coasts were recognized for their
biodiversity holdings and identified as critical migratory bird stop-over
habitat and as a result, recently were given given protection as biosphere
Overall, based on its degree and rate of habitat loss and the amount of
biodiversity it holds, Mexico is now considered one of the 15 most
environmentally threatened places in the world.
They provide shelter and are used as nursery for several species, marine and
terrestrial, with ecological and commercial relevance. Some birds, as Anas
discors and Mycteria americana, are threatened species. There are only 13
reptile species reported for The Reserve, ten of them protected by Mexican laws,
included Crocodylus acutus and Boa constrictor.
Conservation Programs and Ecotourism Biosphere Reserves The first biosphere
reserves were designated in 1976 and, as of 1997, there were 337 of them in 85
countries, covering 200 million hectares (500 million acres).
Mexico now has about 10 biosphere reserves, defined by the United Nations
scientific arm (UNESCO) as protected areas, generally larger than 10,000
hectares (24,700 acres), that contain one or more important biological zones and
that include significant pristine, or wilderness, areas, untouched by people,
are known as special biosphere reserves, and Mexico also has more than 10 of
these (for example, Ria Celestun and Ria Lagartos reserves).
Biosphere reserves are structured in a special way to facilitate areas for
environmental research, monitoring, training, education, and tourism. They
contain one or more core or nuclear zones, true wilderness areas designated for
the strongest degree of long-term conservation protection; only research
relevant to conservation and perhaps limited, low-impact tourism are allowed in
Surrounding the core zones are buffer zones, meant to protect the core from
human intrusion and in which limited activities relevant to conservation are
permitted, such as education, research, ecotourism, non-destructive recreation,
and low-impact uses of natural resources.
Surrounding or adjacent to buffer zones are transition zones, where local
communities may live and, usually with training from conservation agencies,
engage in sustainable uses of natural resources. (Sustainable means using plants
and animals in ways that are economically profitable for the local economy yet
not ecologically harmful; use, in other words, that will not lead to significant
ecosystem damage or to decline in biodiversity).
1) Sian kaan Biosphere Reserves Not far from Cancun,
down the white sandy beaches that line the blue waters along Mexico’s Yucatan
Peninsula, lies one of North America’s most significant nature preserves, the
Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve—a World Heritage Site—that is home to more than 100
mammal species, 346 bird species, and more than 900 species of plants. Protected
and well managed, the Reserve has so far been successful in conserving the
Peninsula’s unique and varied biodiversity.
But the popularity of Cancun and the Yucatan coast has added extra pressure on
the unprotected forests outside the Reserve’s boundaries. There are fears that
unregulated development of the area will turn Sian Ka’an—which in Mayan means
“Where the Sky is Born”—into a non-viable biological island.
Yet while conservationists hope to build a biodiversity corridor from Sian Ka’an
to the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula, which
would ensure that large animals such as the jaguar would have enough room to
roam, there is growing recognition that the local indigenous people have to
materially benefit from conservation efforts.
2) Celestun and Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserves
These two coastal reserves in the north of the state of Yucatan contain
extensive mangrove forests and salt flats of vital importance to marine life,
resident birds (including Mexico's only flamingo population) and migratory
shorebirds and waterfowl.
El Cuyo, has been designated a priority area for migrant and wintering
shorebirds, while Celestun is considered the fourth-largest wintering ground for
ducks in the Gulf region.
The beaches of both reserves are important nesting areas for endangered sea
3) Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Campeche
Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is Mexico's largest protected area of tropical
evergreen forest--more than a million-and-a-half acres of habitat for countless
species of plants, animals, insects and resident and migratory birds.