The Central American pine-oak forests ecoregion supports a rich assortment of conifer species. It spans the mid-elevations of the Mexican state of Chiapas, southern Guatemala, most of Honduras and El Salvador, and small areas of west-central Nicaragua.
Central American Pine-Oak Forests
The Central American pine-oak forests ecoregion supports a rich assortment of conifer species. The premontane forests extend between the highland cloud forests and the lowland rainforests. These forests support the colorful, resplendent quetzal.
The ecoregion spans northern Central America's mid-elevations, incorporating the Mexican state of Chiapas, southern Guatemala, most of Honduras and El Salvador, and small areas of west-central Nicaragua. It encompasses the Sierra Madre de Chiapas and various other mountain ranges with complex topography.
The pine-oak forests occur at 600 - 1,800 m (2,000 - 5,900 ft) elevation levels. At lower elevations, they transition to tropical moist forests on the Caribbean slope and to tropical dry forests on the Pacific slope and interior valleys.
These mixed forests are dominated by pine, oak, birch, and alder tree species. Pines are more abundant at higher elevations, and oaks at lower elevations.
These forests are the southernmost extent of species from genera typical of temperate North America, including pine, fir and yew.
The trees reach considerable stature in the Olancho area of Honduras, while the pine-oak forests in El Salvador have almost entirely been cleared.
Flora and Fauna
The pine-oak forests ecoregion is home to mammals that include the jaguar (Panthera onca), puma (Puma concolor), ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii), cacomistle (Bassariscus sumichrasti), greater grison (Galictis vittata), tayra (Eira barbara), Central American spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata), and Mexican mouse opossum (Marmosa Mexicana) as well as various native bat and rodent species.
Approximately 16 endemic amphibians and 24 endemic reptiles are in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas alone, including the Neotropical whop snake, Celaque mushroom tongue salamander, and an endangered species of spike thumb frog.
The highlands of northern Central America are an Endemic Bird Area. They are the wintering grounds for migratory warblers, such as the threatened golden-cheeked warbler and the azure-rumped tanager.
Some endemic flora in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas includes weeping fig, tailflower, cardboard palm, and common oak.
Resident birds include the bearded screech owl (Megascops barbarus), fulvous owl (Strix fulvescens), ocellated quail (Cyrtonyx ocellatus), belted flycatcher (Xenotriccus callizonus), pink-headed warbler (Cardellina versicolor), black-capped siskin (Spinus atriceps), green-throated mountain gem (Lampornis sybillae), wine-throated hummingbird (Selasphorus ellioti), blue-throated motmot (Aspatha gularis), black-capped swallow (Atticora pileata), rufous-browed wren (Troglodytes rufociliatus), blue-and-white mockingbird (Melanotis hypoleucus), rufous-collared thrush (Turdus rufitorques), bar-winged oriole (Icterus maculialatus), and bushy-crested jay (Cyanocorax melanocyaneus).
The pine-oak forests provide a winter home for several migratory bird species from North America, including the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) and azure-rumped tanager (Tangara cabanisi).
The protection status of the pine-oak forests of Central America varies by country and region. However, the human populations of Guatemala and El Salvador are concentrated within this ecoregion and exert substantial negative impacts on the remaining fragments.
Considerably intact habitat remains in Honduras, although there are expanding human impacts, including extensive logging for agricultural purposes such as cattle ranching or firewood. This ecoregion includes several protected areas, including Montecristo National Park, the last remaining forest in El Salvador.
The Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is an internationally designated protected area in the greater region. It is meant to preserve cloud forests but only includes some pine-oak forests.
Map illustrating the extent of the Central American pine-oak forests (in purple).