The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, located at the base of the Yucatán Peninsula, is considered to be the largest forest mass in Mexico and — together with the forests of Guatemala and Belize — the second largest remnant forest left in Latin America after the Amazon.
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, located at the base of the Yucatán Peninsula, is the largest forest reserve in Mexico. It comprises 723,185 ha (1,787,000 acres) of protected land with some 52 ejidos, or local communities, with almost 23,740 inhabitants (2000) in its buffer zone. The area of the biosphere reserve equals the entire area that also makes up the World Heritage Site: Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche.
It is not an untouched forest, as testify the remnants of Mayan cities, abandoned in A.D. 900. The important pre-Columbian Maya civilization archaeological site of Calakmul, one of the largest-known Maya sites, is located in the Biosphere Reserve. It consists of Tropical humid forest ecosystem type covered with Evergreen tropical humid forest, semi-deciduous forest with low temporally flooded forest, thorn forest and tropical deciduous forest.
The Biosphere Reserve is characterized by its size, good state of conservation and continuity with other regions in the Yucatán Peninsula, Chiapas, Guatemala and Belize. It is considered to be the largest forest mass in Mexico and, together with the forests of Guatemala and Belize, the second largest remnant forest left in Latin America after the Amazon.
Its great diversity of species responds to regional heterogeneity, where in spite of its scant land forms, high and medium altitude sub-evergreen (moist) forests, medium altitude sub-deciduous (dry) forests (with a predominance of Holywood Lignum-vitae (Guaiacum sanctum)); lowland deciduous forests and savannahs can be found.
This group of forests harbors Mexico’s largest populations of fauna and flora, comprising charismatic or flagship species of biological and ecological importance for the region, such as the Jaguar, the Puma, the Tapir, the White-lipped Pecary, the Howler Monkey and the Spider Monkey, the King Vulture, the Ornate Hawk together with Mahogany, Cedar and Ciricote trees. There are also endemic species of economic and ecological importance for the region such as the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata) and Gray Brocket Deer (Mazama gouazoubira).
Ninety percent of the amphibian species and over 50% of the reptile species reported for the Peninsula are to be found in the region. The land area is very important for birds with over 360 species recorded and it is also considered to be an important geographical area for Neotropical migratory species.