The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve is located in southeast Mexico between the Lacantum and Locania Rivers. It is one of the largest areas of humid tropical forest in Mexico and Central America, with areas of pine forest and mountain rain forest in higher altitudes.
Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve
The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve is located in the Selva Lacadona region in the State of Chiapas in southeast Mexico, between the Lacantum and Locania Rivers. It comprises 331,200 ha (818,400 acres) inside the forestry protection area of the Lacandona Forest.
It is part of three contiguous UNESCO-recognized biosphere reserves that includes the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the Yucatán and the Maya Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala. It is one of the largest areas of humid tropical forest in Mexico and Central America, with areas of pine forest in higher altitudes along with mountain rain forest.
The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve and surrounding forest contain some 500 species of trees. More recently, the forest has been exploited for chicle and mahogany but has not been seriously altered, even though wood clearing is recognized as a serious threat. It comprises a mixture of federal, communal system and private lands.
Rather than viewing this overlap of protected area and indigenous territory as a threat, Tzeltal, Chol, and Lacandon Maya communities see the Montes Azules reserve as a buffer against outside threats to their land. Some 75,400 people (2002) live in the reserve mainly engaged in local agriculture.
The Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve is the northernmost distribution boundary for a great number of biota proceeding from the Pleistocene refuges of Polochic in Guatemala and Chiriqui in Panama. It contains relevant species such as Lacandonia schismatica and is the last refuge for vulnerable species such as the Scarlet Macao (Ara macao).
The area contains the greatest amount of biodiversity in Neotropical Mexico: it covers 16% of the national territory and includes:
- 20% of the country’s plant diversity (approximately 4,300 species)
- 25% of the bird species (345 species)
- 27% of the mammal species (114 species)
In terms of invertebrates, for butterflies alone its 800 daytime species represent 44% of the total for Mexico. A new family of fish have been recorded in the area: the Lacantunidae.
It is the habitat of a species endemic to Mesoamerica, Baird´s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii); of rare species such as the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpija); and of such emblematic species such as the Jaguar (Phantera onca), Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), the Mexican Black Howler Monkey (Alouata pigra), Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii), Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) and Mahogany (Swetenia macrophylla).