Tropical Forests

Tropica forest
Tropical rainforest. Credit: Roberto González.

The continent’s cradle of bird diversity

Bird species in al types of tropical forests are at high risk of extinction

Mexico’s tropical forests extend through Central America and support nearly 500 resident species of birds, as well as more than 120 bird species that migrate from Canada and the United States. Unfortunately, deforestation and fragmentation have reduced these continentally important habitats to precious small stands. Mexican tropical forests have suffered greater than 70% habitat loss since the 1970s.

Status: Most species at risk of extinction

The majority of resident species in Mexico’s tropical forests are on the Watch List due to small and highly threatened populations. Birds that live in tropical cloud forests atop mountains are most at risk, with many resident species such as the Resplendent Quetzal federally listed in Mexico as endangered. Tropical dry forests are home to 48 endemic species found nowhere else. Tropical evergreen forests are important migratory bird habitat; 20% of boreal breeding birds spend winters there.

Building on Success: Mexico’s Protected Areas

The Mexican government, the Global Environment Facility, and other partners have invested US$174 million to conserve tropical forests through the Natural Protected Areas System. More than 300 people living near these protected areas have joined CONABIO’s Community-Based Bird Monitoring Network to assess the benefits of protection. The volunteer birders provide citizen-science data that help to assess the status of migratory and resident birds.

Bird watchers in Mexico.
Bird watchers in Mexico. Credit: Rubén Ortega.

Take Action: Improve forests and livelihoods

Conserving what’s left of Mexico’s tropical forests requires active public involvement—by both international partners and the Mexican people.

  • About 20% of remnant tropical forest acreage is protected by parks or reserves. It is critically important to continue and expand international collaboration and funding for habitat management of these forests.
  • On private and communal lands, tropical forest conservation must support the livelihoods of resident families in ways that maintain standing forests. A model example is the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor program in Mexico, which supports people and forests through sustainable timber harvesting, ecotourism development, and sustainable agroforestry with coffee and cacao crops.