Located at the southeastern tip of the State of Quintana Roo in the Yucatán Peninsula, the Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve encompasses a mosaic of open water, seagrass beds, mangroves, sand beaches and coral reefs. It is considered one of the most outstanding marine sites in the region.
Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve
The Banco Chinchorro Biosphere Reserve encompasses a 144,866 ha (357,970 acres) mosaic of open water, seagrass beds, mangroves, sand beaches and coral reefs that is considered one of the most outstanding marine sites in the region.
Located at the southeastern tip of the State of Quintana Roo in the Yucatán Peninsula, Banco Chinchorro is the biggest platform type reef complex system in Mexico and because of its isolated position, it represents well-preserved natural ecosystems.
Corals characterize the area and form a circular strip made up of coral islets, which constitute the morphological structure of Banco Chinchorro. Due to this coral topography and the irregular submarine topography and orientation, a great diversity of habitats co-exist. Some 95 coral species have been inventoried.
Only 0.4% of the core area of the Biosphere Reserve is terrestrial and is strongly influenced by the sea. The saline substratum allows only the growth of halophyte or coastal dune vegetation and mangroves. The buffer area comprises the large area of the coral circular strip and a large marine zone to a depth of 60 m (200 ft).
Seagrass beds are abundant in the Cayo Norte zone and in the interior lagoon of Cayo Centro, serving as reproduction and breeding refuges of way ecologically and economically important species. In this latter category, the two main species of importance are found: the Caribbean lobster (Panulirus argus) and the conch (Strombus gigas).
There are three coral systems: Cayo Norte, Cayo Centro and Cayo Lobos, which form islands in the three core areas. The natural vegetation of the three islands is largely mangrove near the shore shading into open woodland more than 20 to 30 m (66 to 98 ft) from the shore.
There is an American crocodile reserve on the southernmost (Cayo Lobos) island. The islands (in common with many isolated tropical islands) are thickly populated with small crabs.
The transition area encompasses the fishing village, home to the 90 human inhabitants of the Biosphere Reserve along the mainland coast, who live in stilt houses about 60 to 100 m (200 to 330 ft) offshore to circumvent local regulations forbidding private construction.