Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: TROPICAL RAINFORESTS


Mexico Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total 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, 2000-2005
Annual 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 Classification
Public: 58.8%
Private: n/a
Other: 41.2%
Production: 0.1%
Protection: 1.5%
Conservation: 6.8%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 91.5%
None or unknown: n/a

Forest Area Breakdown
Total 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

Plantations, 2005: 1,058,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 1.6%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: n/a M t
Below-ground biomass: n/a M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 194,000 ha
Insects: 8,000 ha
Diseases: 2,000 ha

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 1,130
Critically endangered: 0
Endangered: 7
Vulnerable: 23

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 7,667,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 684,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $545,479,000
Wood fuel: $19,216,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): $32,134,000
Total Value: $596,829,000

More forest statistics for Mexico

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.

Recent articles | Mexico news updates | XML

New fund helps groups buy land quickly to protect threatened wildlife
(06/09/2015) When an opportunity to acquire some crucial piece of habitat becomes available, conservationists don't always have the funds at their disposal to outbid other interested parties. Enter the Quick Response Biodiversity Fund, a new initiative whose goal is to rapidly respond to opportunities to purchase land in developing countries as a way to protect critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.

Vaquita porpoises down to 'way less than 100,' Mexican agents shoot fisherman while enforcing new protected area
(05/29/2015) With fewer than 100 individuals alive and dropping fast, the vaquita porpoise is just a swish of the tail away from extinction. In April, alerted by scientists that the vaquita population had recently suffered its biggest decline ever, the Mexican government announced an emergency two-year ban on gillnet fishing across the porpoise's main habitat in the upper Gulf of California. A frenzied race to fish for another critically endangered species, the totoaba, is behind the plummeting porpoise numbers.

Mexico’s club mosses at risk of extinction
(03/26/2015) All nine species of the club moss genus Phlegmariurus found in the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico are at risk of extinction, according to a new study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science. One of these species, P. orizabae, has not been recorded in the wild since 1854.

Last ditch: Mexico finally gets serious about saving the vaquita
(03/04/2015) There are likely less than 100 vaquita on the planet. Found only in the northern pocket of the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the vaquita is a tiny, shy porpoise that has been brought to the very edge of extinction due to drowning in gillnets used for shrimping. But after years of stalling, Mexico now appears to be making a final effort to save the world's most endangered cetacean.

Monarch butterfly population rises a little, but still perilously low
(01/28/2015) The world's migrating monarch butterfly population has bounced back slightly from its record low last year, but the new numbers are still the second smallest on record. According to WWF-Mexico and the Mexican government, butterflies covered 2.79 acres (1.13 hectares) in nine colonies this year in the Mexican forests where the insects overwinter.

Conservation conflicting with local ways of life in Mexican reserve
(12/23/2014) Although conservation has good intentions, it can give rise to conflicts when the interests of conservationists put local peoples’ livelihoods at stake. A recent study has uncovered an unhappy symbiosis between Mayan subsistence hunters and authorities in Yucatán, Mexico. A lack of understanding and communication about hunting regulations are forcing Mayan hunter societies to alter their traditional ways of living.

Initiative to restore 50M acres of degraded Latin American ecosystems by 2020
(12/07/2014) A coalition of governments and organizations today pledged to restore 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded forests and ecosystems across Latin America by 2020 under an initiative that aims to curb boost rural incomes, fight climate change, and increase agricultural production. The effort is backed by $365 million from five impact investors.

New birds arise due to emigration not separation
(11/11/2014) A bird's eye view of speciation in the Neotropics. How long does it take for a new species to develop? Not long, it turns out. In fact, only a few thousand years — an evolutionary blink of an eye. A recent article published in Nature tracked neotropical bird speciation, or the process by which new species emerge.

What makes the jaguar the ultimate survivor? New books highlights mega-predator's remarkable past and precarious future
(10/02/2014) For thousands of years the jaguar was a God, then it was vermin to be destroyed, and today it is the inspiration for arguably the most ambitious conservation effort on the planet. A new book by renowned big cat conservationist, Alan Rabinowitz, tells this remarkable story from the jaguar's evolutionary origins in Asia to its re-emergence today as a cultural and ecological symbol.

Reintroduction program ups Mexico's scarlet macaw population by 34 percent in one year
(09/25/2014) While listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the scarlet macaw has disappeared from almost all of its native range in Mexico, is very rare in most Central America countries, and is locally extinct in El Salvador. A new paper published this week finds a reintroduction program was hugely successful in its first year of operation, with a 92 percent survival rate for released birds.

Fragmented forests hurt some bat species, may benefit others
(09/23/2014) Development of roads and other structures disturb large, continuous patches of habitat for wildlife. This habitat fragmentation is one of the biggest contributors to species extinction, as the local ecology and species interactions are altered. A new study finds that leaf-nosed bat abundances in Mexico are closely linked to how sensitive each species is to habitat fragmentation.

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 world’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 – 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 – their caterpillars’ only source of food – 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.

Survey finds huge biological value in Baja California, stalls resort development
(06/11/2014) A recent survey conducted by researchers from the U.S. and Mexico has uncovered staggering levels of biodiversity in the delicate desert environment of Cabo Pulmo in Baja California. Their findings have stymied construction of a proposed $3.6 billion resort, but developers are not giving up.

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 – rhodolith beds. Yet, these structures provide crucial habitat for many marine species. In the first study of its kind, published in mongabay.com’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 Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) in the southern forests of Mexico. One of four species of Central American tapir, Baird’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.

Suggested reading - Books

Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

Other resources

Contact me if you have suggestions on other rainforest-related environmental sites and resources for this country.

Image copyright Google Earth, MDA EarthSet, DigitalGlobe 2005

CIA-World Factbook Profile
FAO-Forestry Profile

Last updated: 5 Feb 2006

what's new | rainforests home | for kids | help | madagascar | search | about | languages | contact

Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2015

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.