The Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve is situated at the transition of the Nearctic and Neotropical biogeographic realms and encompasses parts of the Sierra Madre del Sur. Biologically diverse, it is considered one of the most important protected areas in the western part of Mexico.
Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve
The Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve is in Colima and Jalisco in western Mexico. It is situated at the transition of the Nearctic and Neotropical biogeographic realms and encompasses parts of the Sierra Madre del Sur.
The Biosphere Reserve encompasses a total area of 139,570 ha (344,844 acres), including core, buffer and transition zones; the Reserve's core area is 41,898 ha (103,532 acres).
It is considered one of the most important protected areas in the western part of Mexico due to its rich natural resources, extension, and environmental role. Besides providing a safe water source to more than 430,000 inhabitants, the Reserve is biologically diverse.
The Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve features many altitudes, climates and soils. In addition, the effects of tectonic and volcanic activities and erosion are notable within the Reserve.
The Reserve's varied and complex plant cover harbors a wealth of flora. There are over 2,900 species of vascular plants belonging to 981 genera. In addition, different types of forests are present in the Reserve, including mesophytic, cloud and dry deciduous, and semi-deciduous tropical forests.
Map depicting the location and zoning of the Sierra de Manantlán Biosphere Reserve
Among the central values of the Sierra de Manantlán, in addition to its great wealth of species and its unique biogeographical characteristics, are the presence of endemic species.
So far, 110 species of mammals have been reported, which include the Mexican vole (Microtus mexicanus neveriae) and the pocket gopher (Cratogeomys gymnurus russelli), in addition to other mammals such as the oncilla, the jaguarundi, the ocelot, the puma, the bobcat, the jaguar, and four species of nectarivorous bats.
Three hundred and thirty-six species of birds have been reported; among them are 36 endemic to Mexico, such as the charismatic species: the crested guan (Penelope purpurascens), the military macaw (Ara militaris), the red-lored amazon (Amazona autumnalis), and the Mexican national symbol: the golden eagle.
Eighty-five species of amphibians and reptiles have been recorded; of these, it is known that 13 are endemic to the western and central region of Mexico: the rattlesnake, the black iguana, the frog Shyrrhopus modestus, the beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum) and the Autlan rattlesnake (Crotalus lannomi), an endemic species only reported for the area of Puerto de Los Mazos. Of the 16 species of fish identified, 13 are native, and four are endemic to the region.
Anthropologists know the region as 'Zona de Occidente,' an area notably different from the rest of Mesoamerica. Some ceramic remnants, figurines and graves have been found, but there is little other evidence.
More than 40,000 people (2002) live in the Sierra de Manantlán, mainly in agriculture (corn, beans, tomatoes, sugarcane, watermelon, mangoes), livestock grazing, timber production, and extraction of wood for fuel and mining of coal or minerals.
Their living conditions are poor and marginal. Yet, as one of Jalisco's forgotten groups, commercial timber companies and local administrators have ignored their land rights.
The Biosphere Reserve, with its focus on people as an integral part of the ecosystem, would appear well-fitted to address the challenges of conserving wild relatives of essential crops.
An example is wild maize (Zea diploperennis), discovered in the 1970s that led to the Biosphere Reserve designation in 1988. In addition, populations of the wild annual relative (Mays ssp. parviglumis) and the 'Tabloncillo' and 'Reventador' races of maize, traditional for this area, are other targets for conservation.
The primary goal of the Reserve is to implement an alternative productive diversification of agricultural communities in ecotourism, sustainable forest management, agriculture and handicraft.