Mexican Dry Forests

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Sunrise from the Mirador, Oaxaca, Mexico.
© WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 8 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.

Paralleling the Pacific Coast in southwestern Mexico and in Guatemala lie a series of the most diverse tropical dry forests in the world, 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 abundant plant life, which in turns supports a plethora of animal species.

The Jalisco Dry Forests are a region of unparalleled diversity in Mexico. One of the most characteristic features of this forest is that the trees lose their leaves for a long period of time during the dry season. This forest is also unusual in that it rarely burns.

A feature that stands out in the Bajío dry forests is Chapala Lake, the largest lake in Mexico, which used to support a rich fish community, now in danger of extinction.

The Chiapas Depression is a dry forest valley in southern Mexico and western Guatemala. Great variations in altitude here have created amazingly diverse habitats for nearly 1,000 different dry adapted plant species.

Size:
315,000 sq. km (121,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Central America: Guatemala and Mexico

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
The Jalisco Dry Forests are home to more than 750 species of plants, 70 mammal species and 27 species of termites.

Balsas dry forests is a special region for 2 rarely seen bats: the California myotis and the long-legged myotis. At least 24 of the 60 known species of Bursera trees grow here.

Selected species include the red-knee tarantula spider (Brachypelma smithi), orange-breasted bunting (Passerina leclancherii), white-throated magpie jay (Calocitta formosa), and the West Mexican chachalaca (Ortalis poliocephala). Harder to find, but also present in these forests, are several kinds of wild cats, including pumas and jaguars. A great diversity of spiders has been recorded in the dry forests of coastal Guerrero - at least 311 species have been identified so far.

Sinaloan dry forests are classified among the endemic bird areas of the world because of the high number of birds that live only here. One turkey-like bird is named after the sound it makes - chachalaca.

The dry forests of Sierra de la Laguna are home to some 224 species of plants, half the reptiles and amphibians in the entire Cape Region, and 96% of the region's mammals.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH
Puma (Puma concolor), Belize.
© WWF-Canon / Anthony B. RATH

Featured Species

The Mexican Red-Knee Tarantula (Brachypelma smithi) is a large spider with a body length of about 9cm (3.5 in). They are native to the pacific coastal forests of Mexico. They are striking in appearance with a jet black body and, as their name suggests, bright red knees. They lay 100-400 eggs hatching within 1.5-2.5 months. They eat invertebrates such as crickets, mealworms, wax-moth larvae, locusts, cockroaches and even earthworms. This species is fairly docile and hardy. They are ground dwelling burrowers and nocturnal.

Females have a life span of up to 30 years. Males die soon after maturity and have a lifespan of 3-6 years. When threatened it kicks up the hairs of its abdomen as a defensive mechanism.

Read more:
 / ©: WWF-UK / David Lawson
Mexican red-kneed tarantula (Brachypelma smithi).
© WWF-UK / David Lawson
Threats
Urbanization, increasing tourism, and exploitation of wildlife are high-intensity threats to the region, as are road construction, perennial plantations, and ranching. Fruit and legume plantations have replaced many sections of forests, and Croton and Bursera trees are being cut down to build field and house fencing. Hunters kill many ocelots each year to trade their beautiful spotted coats illegally.
WWF’s work
Mexico's biodiversity and endemism have made it one of WWF's priority countries for more than 30 years. One of the major programmes is the Mexico Forest Programme. Nearly 30% of the nation's territory is covered with diverse forest. The programme commenced in 2002 and runs projects in the following areas:
  • Sierra Norte - In the mountainous range of the North of Oaxaca State. Pine-Oak Forest and Cloud Forest.
  • Coastal Mountains - From the Huatulco coast to Nube de Flandes, in the Oaxaca State. Tropical Dry Forest and Pine-Oak Forest.
  • Selva Zoque - Chimalapas. In the border of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz States. Tropical Wet Forest, Tropical Dry Forest, Pine-Oak Forest, Cloud Forest.
  • Sierra Tarahumara - Upper Conchos watershed, State of Chihuahua. Pine-Oak Forest.
Read more:

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