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Principal ecosystems in Mexico

Principal ecosystems in Mexico

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Tropical evergreen forest (rainforest)

  • Description: These are the lushest plant communities of the country consisting of a large variety of tree species that retain their foliage all year. Many trees reach heights of 30m and more. Rainforests are distributed in warm, humid climates. These are very complex ecosystems with great diversity of species.
  • Distribution: Originally occupied about 9.2% of Mexican territory, but have been reduced by a half to 4.7% (91 566 km²). In Mexico rainforests can be found almost exclusively on the Atlantic slope, from southern San Luis Potosi along Tabasco and Veracruz to the south of the Yucatan Peninsula. They are also present in a narrow strip of the Pacific slope of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, as well as smaller areas in the lower foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur of Oaxaca and Guerrero, usually in areas below 1,200 meters above sea level.
  • Climate: Regions with abundant rainfall and warm temperatures all year = plants are able to retain their foliage. The average rainfall is over 2,000 mm per year and the temperature, always greater than 18 ° C with very little variation (5 to 7 ° C). Most of the Mexican rainforests grow on limestone karst rocks. Rainfall runs off directly into subsurface cracks and surface rivers are therefore very scarce.

Spider monkey (Ateles geoffrogyi)
Howler monkey (Alouatta palliata)
White-nosed Coati (Nasua narica)
Anteater (Tamandua mexicana)
Kinkajou (Potos flavus)
Tapir (Tapirus bairdii)
Scarlet macaw (Ara macao)
Curassow (Crax rubra)
Keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus)

Green iguana (Iguana iguana)
Boa (Boa constrictor)

Tropical deciduous and semideciduous forest

  • Description: Plant communities dominated by small trees that lose their leaves during the dry season. They are typical of warm climates with little rain. They have a unique diversity with many endemic species. They are located in very fragile areas and climatic conditions prone to desertification.
  • Distribution: occupies approximately 11.7% (226, 898 square kilometers) of Mexican territory. It is distributed on the Pacific side of Mexico from southern Sonora and southwestern Chihuahua to Chiapas and continues south through Central America. There are small portions at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula and north of the Yucatan Peninsula. Usually found from sea level up to 1,500 m.
  • Climate: develops dry climate with extreme minimum temperature of 0 °C on the coldest days, but on average varies between 20 to 29°C . The precipitation varies between 300 and 1.200 mm (1.800 maximum) with to 8 dry months, usually from December to May.

Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)
White – tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Jaguarondi (Puma yagouaroundi)
Puma (Puma concolor) 
Jaguar (Panthera onca) 
Green macaw (Ara militaris)
Citreoline trogon (Trogon citreolus)
Black iguana (Ctenosaura pectinata)
Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum)

Xeric shrubland

Ecosystem with thorny and deciduous elements, composed mainly of small -leaf bushes and characteristic for its tower -like cacti. The daily temperatures can be very extreme, reaching 42C and the diurnal changes are typically very big (frequently 20C).The mean annual temperature ranges from 12 to 26C. Xeric shrublands occur in wide range of altitudes, from the sea level to 2200 metres.
The mean annual precipitation is generally lower than 70 cm.
In areas covered with tower -like cactus species these following species can be found: Cephalocereus chrysacanthus, Pachycereus weberi, Myrtillocactus geometrizans, Escontria chiotilla, Neobuxbaumia macrocephala, Stenocereus pruinosus, Pachycereus hollianus.
The typical bush species are Acacia acatlensis, Ceiba parvifolia, Mimosa lacerata, Brahea dulcis.


Occurs usually in regions with slightly undulating topography. The predominant vegetation is low, between 60 and 90 cm. The dry season is pronounced and long, from 6 -9 months. The annual mean temperature can range from 12 to 20C and mean annual precipitation from 30 -60 cm. The predominant species belong to genus Bouteloa, Acacia, Agave, Quercus, Zinnia, etc.

Coniferous forest

As the name suggest, vegetation is composed predominantly of coniferous trees. The temperatures usually fall bellow freezing point during winter and can be considerably high in summer. Coniferous forests occur mostly on the northern hemisphere, where they form the largest biome on the Earth.
Pine forests in Mexico grow at elevations of 2,275-2,600 m and are composed mainly of Pinus montezumae (Trans Volcanic Belt area), although in more humid areas, P. pseudostrobus is the dominant species. In drier areas with more shallow soils, P. rudis and P. teocote are the dominant elements. At low elevations (below 2,000 m) P. oocarpa and P. michoacana are more common and are sometimes interspersed with P. herrerae, P. pringlei and P. leiophylla, along with some individuals of Quercus. Above 3,000 m throughout the Trans-Volcanic belt, the forests are a strict combination of Pinus hartwegii and Abies religiosa. The herbaceous stratum is well developed and epiphytes are abundant.

Cloud forest

Can be found in humid areas above 1000 m above see level. Trees usually reach more than 20m. The mean annual temperature varies from 12 to 23C, the annual mean precipitation is always higher than 100 cm and sometimes exceeds 300 cm. In many cases the forests are enshrouded in semipermanent mist giving rise to the term cloud forest.
Cloud forests harbor many species that can be found in the rain forests, but are typically rich in epiphytes, parasitic plants, bromeliads, vines, ect. The most common species are Oreomunnea mexicana, Ulmus mexicanus, Weinmannia pinnata, Liquidambar styraciflua, Chiranthodendron pentadactylon, Nyssa sylvatica, Quercus sororia, Pinus ayacahuite, Hedyosmum mexicanum, ect.


The Ramsar Convention identifies wetlands as “areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres and may incorporate riparian and coastal zones adjacent to the wetlands, and islands or bodies of marine water deeper than six metres at low tide lying within the wetlands”. This broad “official” definition includes a huge variety of ecosystems.

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