Biodiversity Conservation in Mexico
source: CONABIO

The concept of protected areas in Mexico has been known since prehispanic times. The ancient Mayan cultures, for instance, used to include strictly protected zones and time periods in the exploited areas. It is known, that in the fifteenth century, Netzahualcóyotl reforested large areas in Valley de Mexico region and during the following century, the emperor Moctezuma II founded several zoological parks and botanical gardens.

The first Natural Protected Area founded in Mexico is the Desierto de Los Leones near Mexico City, which was pronounced in 1876 for the importance of its springs. It gained the status of National Park in 1917, when its natural beauty and recreational potential was recognized.

During the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940), the creation of parks and reserves underwent an incredible boom. In total, 82 areas were implemented as National Parks and Forest Reserves and for the first time in history a section of the government was established for their administration.
From 1940 to 1960, this tendency suffered a considerable deceleration and the growth of protected areas in size and number was minimal, but it was during this period when the Forest Act was modified to favor the wildlife protection and control the forest resources exploitation.

In between 1976 and 1982, 8 National Parks were declared and 17 Protected Zones established. Among these, the Montes Azules reserve in Chiapas (established in 1978) and La Michilía and  Mapimí, in Durango (both established in 1979).

A new and important tendency has appeared – to strengthen the participation of no governmental institutions and implement periodic plans for all Natural protected Areas. The importance of urban protected areas was also recognized.

In the period 1983 – 1996, another 35 areas were pronounced including many marine and island protected areas. In the 1990ties some reserves were established with a greater and more straightforward participation of local inhabitants (Calakmul, Yum Balam) and first reserves with private economic participation were created (Chamela-Cuixmala).

Currently, the most important tool in Nature and Landscape Protection in Mexico is the General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environment Protection (Ley General del Equilibrio Ecológico y la Protección al Ambiente - LGEEPA), which institutes the National Council of Nature Protected Areas as an advisory board to SMARNAT (Ministry of Environment and Nature Resources) and enforces the process of decentralization and administration of Protected Areas management and involvement of federal entities, municipalities, agricultural communities, indigenous people and social organizations.

Nature Protected Areas and their administration
According to the 3rd article of LGEEPA, the Natural Protected Areas (Areas Naturales Protegidas - ANP in Spanish) are “areas within the national territory, where the original environmental conditions haven’t been significantly altered by human activity or areas that require protection and restoration…”
The objectives of ANP creation are:
1) preserve the representative natural environments of different biogeographical end ecological regions of the country as well as the fragile ecosystems, to assure the equilibrium and continuity of evolutionary and ecological processes

2) ensure the preservation and sustainability of local biodiversity on all levels of management, especially that of the species of fauna and flora that require special attention (endangered, rare, endemic and subject to special protection

3) grant a suitable environment to scientific investigation as well as to traditional knowledge and methods in nature protection

4) develop technologies that allow biodiversity conservation

5) protect natural environments of other important cultural zones, such as archeological, historical and artistic sites and tourist destinations
The Mexican Federation counts with a total of 117 ANP, covering a total area of 12 375 851 ha. The LGEEPA establishes 8 categories of ANP management.
National Park (Parque Nacional)
see list
The majority (64) of ANP fall into the category of National Park, however these areas cover only 11.3% of the total protected area. 15 (i.e.32%) of all National Parks are smaller than 1000 ha, which according to IUCN norms is the minimal size that can be considered as adequate for nature conservation. In this category a great variety of ANP is included, from National Marine Parks and well preserved areas with restricted access to areas situated within urban zones that might have lost a great part of their original vegetation cover.
Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera)
see list
This category includes 26 reserves within Mexican territory and represents 71% of the total protected area. The Biosphere Reserves function on 4 basic principles:
1) involve local institutions and communities in the nature conservation (2) incorporate the regional socioeconomic issues in the activities of investigation and development of the reserve (3) provide the reserve with administrative independence (4) encourage the reserves to form a part in global conservational strategies. In this manner, the Biosphere Reserves work as space for investigation and unification of conservational efforts.
Areas of Faunistic and Floristic Protection
(Áreas de Protección de Flora y Fauna)
see list
There are 11 ANP in this category (13.5% of total protected area), four of which have status of Natural Monument (Monumento Natural).
Area of natural Resources’ Protection
(Área de Protección de Recursos Naturales)
see list
In this category, two subcategories are included – Forest Reserve and Protected Forestal Zone, which include some dams, national irrigation systems and other important water bodies (lagoons, rivers and streams).
Conabio. 1998. La diversidad biológica de México: Estudio de País. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad. México. Versión preliminar.
Flores-Villela, O. y P. Gerez. 1995. Biodiversidad y Conservación en México: vertebrados, vegetación y uso del suelo. UNAM. México.
Glowka, L. et al. 1996. Guía del Convenio sobre la Diversidad Biológica. UICN Gland y Cambridge. xii + 179pp.
Halffter, G. 1992. El Concepto de Reserva de la Biósfera. Memorias del seminario sobre conservación de la diversidad biológica de México. No.1. Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM. México.
INE. 1997. Documento preparado por la Unidad Coordinadora de Áreas Naturales Protegidas del INE. No publicado.
Ordónez, M. J. y O. Flores. 1995. Áreas naturales protegidas en México. Pronatura. México.
Székely, A. 1994. Protección legal a la biodiversidad en México. Informe de trabajo. Conabio. México.
Vargas, F. 1984. Parques nacionales de México y reservas equivalentes. Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas/UNAM. México.

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