Forest CoverTotal forest area: 64,238,000 ha % of land area: 33.7%
Primary forest cover: 32,850,000 ha % of land area: 17.2% % total forest area: 51.1%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -260,400 ha Annual deforestation rate: -0.4% Change in defor. rate since '90s: -21.1% Total forest loss since 1990: -4,778,000 ha Total forest loss since 1990:-6.9%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: -395000 ha Annual deforestation rate: -1.1% Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 11.3% Primary forest loss since 1990: -1,975,000 ha Primary forest loss since 1990:-15.3%
Forest ClassificationPublic: 58.8% Private: n/a Other: 41.2% Use Production: 0.1% Protection: 1.5% Conservation: 6.8% Social services: n/a Multiple purpose: 91.5% None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 64,238,000 ha Primary: 32,850,000 ha Modified natural: 30,330,000 ha Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: 72,000 ha Production plantation: 986,000 ha
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: 1,058,000 ha % of total forest cover: 1.6% Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: n/a M t Below-ground biomass: n/a M t
Area annually affected byFire: 194,000 ha Insects: 8,000 ha Diseases: 2,000 ha
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 1,130 Critically endangered: 0 Endangered: 7 Vulnerable: 23
Rapid industrialization of Mexico and uncontrolled population growth over the last few decades have had a substantial impact on the country's environment and left less than 10 percent of its original tropical rainforests standing. Today Mexico's rainforests are limited to southeastern Mexico along the Gulf of Mexico and the state of Chiapas. These forests are most threatened by subsistence activities—especially fuelwood collection and land clearing for agriculture, using fire. In dry years these agricultural fires can spread into virgin forests. In 1998—a strong el Nińo year—widespread fires destroyed over 1.5 million acres (600,000 ha) of forest and scrub land and sent choking smoke as far north as Canada. Several southern U.S. states issued health warnings and the U.S. sent firefighters and helicopters to battle the blazes.
Conflict in Chiapas has contributed to forest loss by displacing poor subsistence farmers, while military exercises by the army and rebel forces have degraded forest areas. Oil deposits in the Lacandon forest of Chiapas may soon be targeted in an era of high energy prices.
Illegal logging and poaching are widespread in Mexico. Criminal syndicates dominate the illicit timber trade, and parks are common targets for wood extraction.
Despite these threats, Mexico's forests have a great deal of potential for eco-tourism. While tourism, already one of Mexico's most important sources of income, has traditionally had negative impacts on the country's environment through land-clearing and pollution, ecologically sensitive tourism could provide economic justification for preserving wildlands. Mexico is one of world's five most biodiverse countries, home to at least 26,071 species of vascular plants, of which 48 percent are endemic, and to 2,765 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles, 34 percent of which are endemic. Further, Mexico has a number of cultural and archeological attractions for visitors.
Environmentalism in Mexico is increasing, and the government has lately taken a number of steps to reduce pollution and illegal use of forest lands, including encouraging the expansion of plantations to supplant natural forest use. Although 5,925,000 hectares of primary forest disappeared between 1990 and 2005, deforestation rates of primary forest have decreased 15.3 percent since the close of the 1990s. Mexico announced its first-ever national environmental plan in 1996.
Is there hope for the vaquita? IUCN calls for action to save world's smallest, rarest porpoise
(09/19/2014) Since the baiji was declared extinct in the early aughts, the vaquita has taken its unenviable position as the worldâ€™s most threatened cetacean. The tiny porpoise currently numbers around 100, with accidental entanglement in gillnets primarily responsible for its decline. In response, the IUCN recently issued a statement calling for immediate action to curb vaquita bycatch and head off its extinction â€“ which otherwise may lie just around the corner.
'Canary in the cornfield': monarch butterfly may get threatened species status
(09/08/2014) Monarch butterflies were once a common sight throughout the North American heartland. But declines in milkweed â€“ their caterpillarsâ€™ only source of food â€“ have led to a 90 percent decline in monarch numbers. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing a petition that would grant the iconic species protection through the Endangered Species Act.
Seeking justice for CorazĂłn: jaguar killings test the conservation movement in Mexico
(07/31/2014) Eight years ago, a female jaguar cub was caught on film by a motion-triggered camera trap set in the foothills of canyons, oak forest, and scrubland that make-up the Northern Jaguar Reserve, just 125 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border. Three years later, in 2009, the jaguar reappeared on film as an adult. They called her 'CorazĂłn' for the distinctive heart-shaped spot on her left shoulder.
Study finds tiny cloud forests have big biodiversity
(06/24/2014) Tropical cloud forests are situated in mountains and are characterized by the frequent presence of low-level clouds. Scientists have always regarded them as having high biodiversity, but a recent study adds a new dimension: it found cloud forests contain a significant and surprising array of tree and bromeliad species, even when they are relatively small.
U.S. citizens willing to spend billions to protect monarch butterflies
(04/03/2014) New research shows Americans are willing to pay for the protection of the ailing monarch butterfly, which is experiencing a steep decline in numbers. The study, published in Conservation Letters, found nearly three-quarters of those surveyed placed importance on conservation efforts for the iconic species.
Revealed for the first time: the surprising biodiversity of algae 'reefs'
(03/28/2014) Most people are familiar with coral reefs, but very few have ever heard of their algal equivalent â€“ rhodolith beds. Yet, these structures provide crucial habitat for many marine species. In the first study of its kind, published in mongabay.comâ€™s Tropical Conservation Science, researchers unveil just how important these beds are for bottom-dwelling organisms, and the species that depend on them.
Researchers use new technique to shed light on endangered tapir
(03/26/2014) A new study, recently published in mongabay.com's open access journal, Tropical Conservation Science, uses a new technique to examine the behavior and distribution of the Endangered Bairdâ€™s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in the southern forests of Mexico. One of four species of Central American tapir, Bairdâ€™s tapir was recently ranked 34th on a list of 4,000 endangered animals in need of urgent protection by the Zoological Society of London.
Cocaine: the new face of deforestation in Central America
(03/11/2014) In 2006, Mexico intensified its security strategy, forming an inhospitable environment for drug trafficking organizations (also known as DTOs) within the nation. The drug cartels responded by creating new trade routes along the border of Guatemala and Honduras. Soon shipments of cocaine from South America began to flow through the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC). This multi-national swathe of forest, encompassing several national parks and protected areas, was originally created to protect endangered species, such as Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and jaguar (Panthera onca), as well as the world's second largest coral reef. Today, its future hinges on the world's drug producers and consumers.
Local communities key to saving the Critically Endangered Mexican black howler monkey
(02/14/2014) For conservation initiatives around the world, community involvement is often crucial. An additional challenge is how to conserve species once their habitats have become fragmented. A primatologist in Mexico is bringing these together in a celebration of a Critically Endangered primate species: the Mexican black howler monkey. In 2013 Juan Carlos Serio-Silva was part of a team that not only helped to secure the establishment of a protected area for the Mexican black howler monkey, but also engaged local communities in a week of festivities, dubbed the First International Black Howler Monkey Week.
Migrating monarch butterflies hit shockingly low numbers
(01/31/2014) The monarch butterfly population overwintering in Mexico this year has hit its lowest numbers ever, according to WWF-Mexico. Monarch butterflies covered just 0.67 hectares in Mexico's forest, a drop of 44 percent from 2012 already perilously low population. To put this in perspective the average monarch coverage from 1994-2014 was 6.39 or nearly ten times this year's. For years conservationists feared that deforestation in Mexico would spell the end of the monarch migration, but now scientists say that agricultural and policy changes in the U.S. and Canada—including GMO crops and habitat loss—is strangling off one of the world's great migrations.
Environmental groups: top secret Pacific trade agreement to sacrifice wildlife, environment
(01/16/2014) Environmental groups have blasted draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) released yesterday by WikiLeaks as potentially devastating to the environment and wildlife. The massive 12-nation free trade agreement has been negotiated in secret now for almost four years, and the information release by WikiLeaks shows that key environmental safeguards in the agreement are being stripped away, including a ban on shark finning and illegal logging, as well as legally-enforced pollution regulations.
Scientists identify 137 protected areas most important for preserving biodiversity
(11/14/2013) Want to save the world's biodiversity from mass extinction? Then make certain to safeguard the 74 sites identified today in a new study in Science. Evaluating 173,000 terrestrial protected areas, scientists pulled out the most important ones for global biodiversity based on the number of threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians found in the parks. In all they identified 137 protected areas (spread over 74 sites as many protected areas were in the same region) in 34 countries as 'irreplaceable.'
Pet fish invade ecosystem, upending nutrients and impoverishing fishers
(10/02/2013) If you, or someone you know, owns a freshwater aquarium, chances are you have seen the peculiar little creature attached face-first to the glass in effort to find a morsel of algae. This algae eater, popularly known as the sucker fish, is the sailfin catfish, or plecos. It is one of the most commonly purchased fish in the freshwater aquarium fish trade, and, according to recent research in The Royal Society B, aquarists often reintroduce the sucker-fish into the wild with detrimental consequences.
Mesoamerican Reef needs more local support, says report
(09/13/2013) From massive hotel development through the agriculture industry, humans are destroying the second largest barrier reef in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef. Although global climate change and its effects on reefs via warming and acidification of coastal waters have made recent headlines, local human activities may destroy certain ecosystems before climate change has a chance to do it. The harmful effects of mining, agriculture, commercial development, and fishing in coastal regions have already damaged more than two-thirds of reefs across the Caribbean, in addition to worsening the negative effects of climate change.
Flying rainbows: the scarlet macaw returns to Mexico
(06/11/2013) On April 21, 2013, the first flock of scarlet macaws (of many more to come) was released into the jungles of Aluxes Ecopark, nearby classified World Heritage Site Palenque National Park, as a part of a massive reintroduction project to restore the popular and culturally-significant bird to the well preserved rainforests of Palenque and the rest of its southern Mexico homelandâ€”where the species has been extinct for close to 70 years.
U.S. company's open pit gold mine in UNESCO reserve in Mexico raises concerns
(05/28/2013) Sierra la Laguna is a unique ecosystem reserve spanning more than 100,000 hectares in the southern tip of the California peninsula. It is one of the best-preserved natural areas in Mexico and home to about 100 traditional farmer families as well as multiple endemic animal and plant species. But there is one more thing that makes the region unique: approximately 2 million ounces of gold reserves underground worth $2.8 billion at current gold prices.
Featured video: saving sea turtles in Mexico's Magdalena Bay
(05/09/2013) A new short film, Viva la tortuga documents the struggle to save loggerhead and green sea turtles in Magdalena Bay, Mexico. Once a region for a massive sea turtle meat market, the turtles now face a new threat: bycatch. Loggerhead sea turtles are drowning in bottom-set gillnets, unable to escape from the nets once entangled. The issue has even raises threats of trade embargoes from the U.S.
Debate heats up over California's plan to reduce emissions via rainforest protection
(05/07/2013) As the public comment period for California's cap-and-trade program draws to a close, an alliance of environmental activists have stepped up a heated campaign to keep carbon credits generated by forest conservation initiatives in tropical countries out of the scheme. These groups say that offsets generated under the so-called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, will undermine efforts to cut emissions as home, while potentially leading to abuses abroad. However supporters of forest conservation-based credits say the program may offer the best hope for saving the world's beleaguered rainforests, which continue to fall at a rate of more than 8 million hectares per year.
Deer populations hurt by poaching in Mexican dry forest
(03/18/2013) White-tailed deer are usually thought of as inhabiting temperate forests in the U.S. and Canada, but this widespread species can also be found across tropical forests, from Mexico to Peru. A new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science investigates the population of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in Mexico's Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve (TCBR), and finds that poaching may be having a large impact.
Greenpeace targets forest carbon offsets in California's cap-and-trade
(09/25/2012) California's inclusion of forest conservation-based carbon offsets in its climate change legislation may not lead to net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and could exacerbate social conflict in places like southern Mexico, argues a report released Monday by Greenpeace. But the activist group faced sharp criticism from backers of California's initiative.
Extremely rare plant region left unprotected in the Yucatan Peninsula
(09/17/2012) For the first time, scientists have identified the areas of the Yucatan Peninsula that hold the highest concentrations of endangered woody plants, which includes trees, shrubs, and lianas. In doing so they uncovered four key regions, but also noted that the region with the highest concentration of extremely rare plants was left unprotected, according to a new paper in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru get big boost in deforestation tracking, biomass measurement
(07/11/2012) Efforts to rapidly and accurately track deforestation and forest degradation in Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru got a boost this week with a special technical training session organized by the Governors Climate and Forest Task Force. The meeting, convened at Stanford University and Google's Silicon Valley campus, paired staffers from government agencies and NGOs in the four tropical countries with technical experts from the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), the Carnegie Institution for Science, the Forum on Readiness for REDD, Woods Hole Research Center, and Google Earth Outreach. The participants received training to augment existing deforestation, forest degradation and biomass monitoring capabilities, which are highly variable both between countries and within sub-national agencies and jurisdictions.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.