By Julie R Butler
Mexico is famously rich in culture, history, gastronomy, and natural beauty. But did you know that while it only makes up 1% of the land on Earth, Mexico contains 10%-12% of all the different types of living species on the planet?
Mexico ranks #1 in biodiversity of reptiles, #2 in the number of mammal species, and #4 in amphibians and plants, while ranking fourth in the total number of species it hosts.
A member of the exclusive club of 17 nations known as “mega-diverse countries,” Mexico is also home to a large amount of species that only exist in one particular geographic location, and the country ranks second in the number of ecosystems that exist within its boundaries.
Why Mexico is so Rich in Biodiversity
One of the main reasons Mexico enjoys such rich biodiversity is because it’s in the tropics. But also, the country is muy montañoso, which creates multiple levels of altitude as well as pockets of unique microclimates that result in a variety of soils, climates, and habitats. Mexico also has two long coastlines, where the meeting of coastal dunes, mangroves, and lagoon systems with other ecosystems encourages biodiversity, and the country’s geography ranges from the rainforests of the southeast to temperate mountain forests in the center of the country to the deserts of the north, to name just a few of Mexico’s many ecoregions.
Why is Biodiversity Important?
Biodiversity is really important because every living thing plays some part in the ecosystem where it evolved; and the more different species there are, the more productive, resilient, and sustainable the ecosystem is.
Mexico’s Rich Biodiversity Brought Us Maize and Zapote
Mexico’s rich biodiversity has played a huge role in shaping the region’s development reaching all the way back to when Mexicans began growing maize 9,000 years ago, since it provides an assortment of “natural services” including ecological processes like the soil formation and nutrient recycling that helped make the cultivation of maize possible.
And the wealth of plant biodiversity in Mexico has continued to influence the cultural development of the region since then. Maize may be the foundation of Mexican civilization, but ¿Qué sería México sin tomates, frijoles, calabaza, o los diversos chiles – o el cacao? Or “exotic” fruits like tuna, zapote, and pitaya, or veggies like chayote and jicama?
That’s biodiversity at work for you!
Mexico’s Biodiversity Provides Recreation and Tourism
With 182 federally protected natural areas covering more than 25 million hectares of land throughout the country, Mexico has a lot to offer nature lovers, outdoor sports enthusiasts, adventure travelers, and curious tourists alike, including 42 biospheres, 67 national parks, and a bunch of other designations that set the land aside to help protect the nation’s natural heritage and promote ecotourism in Mexico. People from all over the world come to Mexico to get a peek at wildlife ranging from huge wales to prowling jungle cats to delicate monarch butterflies to Xochimilco’s endangered axolotl salamanders – and so much more that Mexico has to offer!