The Sierra de las Minas runs east to west through the Guatemalan Highlands in the country's southeast. The Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve contains a substantial part of the range and an estimated 60 percent of Guatemala's remaining cloud forest.
Sierra de las Minas
The Sierra de las Minas runs east to west through the Guatemalan Highlands in the country's southeast. The mountain range encompasses part of the departments of Baja Verapaz and Izabal near the eastern portions of Guatemala City.
The Sierra de las Minas range extends approximately 130 km (80 mi) and is 15 - 30 km (9 - 18 mi) wide, bordered by the valleys of the Polochic River in the north and the Motagua River in the south.
The western border of the range is marked by the Salamá River valley, which separates it from the Sierre de Chuacús. The highest peak is Cerro Raxón at 3,015 m (9,892 ft).
The range's name comes from the mining activities that have taken place here for centuries, as the heart of the mountains is composed of jade and marble.
Habitat and land cover types within the Sierra de las Minas include:
Subtropical thorn forest (also known as Motagua Valley thornscrub)
Premontane dry subtropical forest
Premontane tropical wet forest
Lower montane subtropical moist forest
Tropical montane cloud forest
Agroecosystems (coffee, rice, maze)
Pastures (livestock grazing)
Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve
The Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve contains a substantial part of the Sierra de las Minas: 2,408 sq km (930 sq mi), including buffer zones and transition areas.
The Biosphere Reserve was designated in 1992. Protection of the area is critical because it contains an estimated 60 percent of Guatemala's remaining cloud forest.
Because of its geographic isolation, and wide range of elevation, the Sierra de las Minas is home to at least 885 species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, about 70% of all species found in Guatemala and Belize.
Threatened birds like the resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) and horned guan (Oreophasis derbianus) can be found here.
Felines with a significant presence include the Jaguar (Panthera onca), Cougar (Felis concolor), Onza (Puma yagouaroundi), Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Margay (Leopardus wiedii).
Other mammals in the Biosphere Reserve include the red brocket (Mazama americana), the Guatemalan black howler (Alouatta pigra) and Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii).
More than 17 distinct evergreen forest species are endemic. As a result, the area is considered an irreplaceable seed resource for reforestation and agroforestry throughout the tropics.
Although human intervention is critical to the range's long-term protection, many of its habitats have been protected from agriculture by its distinctive natural features: steep hillsides, shallow soils, and changeable weather.
In 2002, Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List due to its natural significance.