The Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve features a variety of mangroves, small estuaries, coastal lagoons, marshes and savannah. Located at the eastern end of the Yucatán Peninsula, it is home to a variety of species, a substantial number of which are rare, vulnerable and endangered.
Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve
The Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve encompasses fundamental wetlands recognized by the Ramsar Convention, located in the eastern end of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.
The reserve's surface area (terrestrial and marine) is 60,348 ha (149,100 acres). The core area is 23,681 ha (58,500 acres), surrounded by buffer zones of 36,666 ha (90,600 acres).
The Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve features a presents a rich diversity of landscapes and ecosystems:
- small estuaries
- medium semi-evergreen forest
- low deciduous forest
- coastal dune vegetation
- coastal lagoons
- marshes (petenes)
The savanna ecosystem is represented by tular vegetation, grasslands and reed beds that are the main nesting sites for marshland and sea birds.
The area is fundamental for the conservation of a number of species. In the past decade, the Biosphere Reserve has managed to stabilize the number of various endangered species.
The Biosphere Reserve's marshes are the only nesting site for the Caribbean pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) and an important nesting site for turtles like critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) and the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas).
It is also an important resting place for migrating birds, like the black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), who spends the winters in the region.
In recent years, the vegetation here has been strongly affected by human activities, particularly by agriculture and livestock raising practices that cause the destruction of vast surfaces of vegetation. It has also been affected by natural catastrophes like the hurricanes that regularly hit this region and the subsequent forest fires.
The area has long been an ecotourism destination, particularly related to the population of Caribbean flamingos and sea turtle nesting. The last decade has seen a 300% increase in tourism services, including hotels, restaurants as well as handicraft production.
On the other hand, it has traditional fishing and salt mining activities, which have been gradually adjusting to sustainable practices. It also has very limited agricultural activities, in which a pre-Hispanic technique called 'milpa', consisting of slash and burn, is still present. The 'milpas' produce mostly corn, beans, pumpkins and peppers.