Yucatán Moist Forests Ecoregion (Mexico, Central America)
The Yucatán moist forests are an ecoregion of the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome. This ecoregion serves as an important biological corridor between the northern Yucatán peninsula and the moist forests of Central America.
Yucatán Moist Forests
The Yucatán moist forests are an ecoregion of the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biome. The ecoregion covers an area of 69,700 sq km (26,900 sq mi) of the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico, extending into northern Guatemala and northern Belize.
These moist forests on the Yucatán Peninsula of southeastern Mexico and slightly beyond are characterized by a humid tropical climate with little topographic relief.
The temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year in the tropical, humid climate of the Yucatán Moist Forests. Some areas of deep soils called akalché are periodically flooded, providing water for native villagers and wildlife species alike.
The Yucatán moist forests form a biological corridor that allows the exchange of species between the drier forests of northern Yucatán and the more humid environments of southwest Yucatán and Central America.
Much of this ecoregion lies atop rugged, weathered limestone called karst. Karst forests around the world are noted for having many endemic plant species.
Flora and Fauna
These forests are home to more than 15 species of amphibians, 40 reptiles, 200 birds, and 90 mammals. Though there are few endemic species, biodiversity is high.
Margays, small spotted cats, climb high into the trees. They can rotate their rear paws inward to climb down a tree and pounce from this position. They feed on small mammals, lizards, and bird eggs.
Other famous felines include the ocelots that stalk monkeys and birds, the jaguarundi that hunts for small rodents and ground-nesting birds, and the secretive jaguar. The Mexican black howler monkey is primarily restricted to this ecoregion.
The ecoregion is home to many bird species, from black and white owls, King vultures, and ocellated turkeys to harpy eagles, great curassows, scarlet macaws, and Yucatán parrots. The southeastern part of the region, where the land is swampy, is filled with chicle, fiddlewood, and chaca trees. Palms are scattered in the understory.
On the island of Cozumel, just off the eastern Yucatán, many endemic species can be found, including the Cozumel vireo, thrasher, emerald hummingbird, the Cozumel Island raccoon and coati.
The northern portion of the forest is an important area for many interesting bird species, including Caribbean Elaenia, migratory species like prairie warblers and peregrine falcons, and species with local distributions like the Caribbean dove, the Zenaida dove, and the black catbird.
In addition to its rich forests, the Yucatán moist forests ecoregion borders wetlands of great importance, such as the Ria Lagartos mangroves and the Sian Ka'an wetlands.
Almost all the forests in the northern part of the coastal plain have been lost to logging, agriculture, and cattle farming. What's left of these forests continues to be cleared to make roads for expanding human populations.
Also, game hunting threatens many already endangered species here, and illegal trade in wild species is extensive. This area once supported a large human population and extensive agriculture during the Maya period.
Several reserves have protected the remaining habitat, but logging and cattle farming continue destroying many of these forests.
Map illustrating the extent of the Yucatán moist forests (in purple).