Forests of Mexico
The forests of Mexico cover a surface area of about 64 million hectares, or 34.5% of the country. These forests are categorized by the type of tree and biome: tropical forests, temperate forests, cloud forests, riparian forests, deciduous, evergreen, dry, moist, etc.. The agency in charge of Mexico's forests is the Comisión Nacional Forestal.
Forested areas were historically part of indigenous communities' commons for hunting, gathering, and fuel. Areas of Mexico were deforested in the prehispanic period around Teotihuacan. In the colonial era, forests were a source of timber for construction, for fuel in smelting metals, and for household fuel. Forested lands were included in indigenous community lands in the colonial era. In the late nineteenth century, during the Porfiriato, the national government ignored previous practices of leaving many forested areas in the hands of indigenous communities began implementing forest management policies. In Chihuahua and in Michoacán and forests were exploited by timber companies. One scholar argues that the change in practice politicized the forested landscape and was an aspect of the commodification of nature, with liberal policies undermined collective indigenous rights to land and its resources. Although forests had historically been utilized, the late nineteenth century marked the beginning of industrial-scale exploitation.
Rainforests are found predominantly along the southeastern Atlantic coast, in regions with frequent rain and warm temperatures that allow for plants to retain their foliage year-round. The average rainfall in these forests is above 2,000 mm and temperature is always higher than 18 °C, with little variation (usually staying between 23 °C and 25 °C).
The Lacandon Jungle is an area of rainforest which stretches from Chiapas into Guatemala and into the southern part of the Yucatán Peninsula. The heart of this rainforest is located in the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve in Chiapas near the border with Guatemala in the Montañas del Oriente region of the state. Although most of the jungle outside the reserve has been partially or completely destroyed and damage continues inside the reserve, the Lacandon is still the largest montane rainforest in North America and one of the last ones left large enough to support jaguars. It contains 1,500 tree species, 33% of all Mexican bird species, 25% of all Mexican animal species, 44% of all Mexican diurnal butterflies and 10% of all Mexico's fish species.
Mexico is home to 50 species of pine (about half of pine species) and about 200 species of oak (about a third of oak species). It is estimated that temperate forests in Mexico contain about 7,000 species of plants.
Monarch butterfly forests
The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve contains the over-wintering habitats of the eastern population of the monarch butterfly. The reserve is located in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests ecoregion on the border of Michoacán and Mexico State. Millions of butterflies arrive in the preserve annually. Butterflies only inhabit a fraction of the 56,000 hectares of the reserve from October–March. The biosphere's mission is not only to protect the butterfly species, but its habitat as well. The composition of the forest varies with altitude:
- oak species up to 2900 metres above sea level
- oak and pines between 1500 and 3000 masl
- oyamel fir between 2400 and 3600 masl.
Tropical and subtropical dry forests
Paralleling the Pacific Coast in southwestern Mexico is a series of diverse tropical dry forests, adapted to an absence of rainfall for certain months of the year. Many trees here drop their leaves during the dry season but warm temperatures help to nurture plant life, which in turns supports a large number of animal species.
This global ecoregion is made up of eight terrestrial ecoregions: Jalisco dry forests; Balsas dry forests; Bajío dry forests; Chiapas Depression dry forests; Sonoran-Sinaloan transition subtropical dry forest; Southern Pacific dry forests; Sinaloan dry forests; and Sierra de la Laguna dry forests.
The Jalisco Dry Forests are a region of large diversity in Mexico. Characteristic features of this forest are that the trees lose their leaves for a long period of time during the dry season and the forest is unusual in that it rarely burns. The Chiapas Depression is a dry forest valley in southern Mexico and western Guatemala. Variations in altitude here have created amazingly diverse habitats for nearly 1,000 different dry adapted plant species.
Cloud forests are found in small areas of 20 states, at altitudes between 600 and 3,100 masl. It is estimated that they are composed of nearly 10% of the plant species in the country (about 2,500 species) of which 30% are unique to these forests. Of these, about 1,300 species are dicots, 700 are monocots, 500 are ferns and 10 are gymnosperms. There are also 800 epiphytes.
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