Central Mexico is covered with pine and oak forests, along
with a diverse undergrowth and strands of liquidambar, the genus
of sweetgum, found throughout the Americas.
In southern Mexico, the forests are a mix of low jungles and
tall deciduous forests, combined with mangroves, marshes, and
Northern Mexico is dominated by desert terrain. That said,
some of the most impressive forests are located in the north,
particularly in the state of Chihuahua.
Most of the country's forest production occurs in the temperate-cold
coniferous and broad-leafed forests in the states of Chihuahua,
The tropical and subtropical forests are comparable in size,
but they account for only 10 percent of Mexican forest production.
Tropical forests are located in the states of Chiapas,
Commercial forestry has encountered numerous obstacles, including
the fact that wood production costs are currently 35 to 40 percent
higher than the world average. Importation of cheaper softwoods
from the United States is expected to further reduce Mexico's
lumber production. Mexico's lumber output in 1994 was 5.9 million
cubic meters, its lowest production in 22 years.
ROOTS OF DEFORESTATION
Before the Spanish conquest, about two-thirds of the country was
forested. Not all was virgin forest and, in fact, evidence links
deforestation to the downfall of great pre-Conquest cities including
Today, less than one-fifth of the country remains verdant,
mainly in the south and east.
Deforestation remains a large problem, because it is often
viewed as a sign of progress. It is also a means for the poorest
segment of Mexico's rural population to gain unclaimed land.
Fifty percent of Mexican farmers now live at subsistence levels,
meaning they simply do not grow enough food to support their
families. Either they move further into the forests, thereby
increasing deforestation, or migrate to the cities.
Profepa, the federal agency charged with protecting Mexico's
natural resources, estimates that the country loses about 1.3
million acres of forests each year, the fifth worst deforestation
rate in the world.
Cattle ranching has destroyed more than three-quarters of
the high forests that covered Mexico at the turn of the century.
Along with the trees, numerous animal and plant species have
perished due to the loss of their native habitats.
Lacandón rain forest, home of the Zapatista National
Liberation Army, some 70,000 acres are cut down each year. The
forest which originally occupied 15 million hectares (37 million
acres) and 90 percent has been converted to grazing pastures.
Environmentalists predict it could disappear within the next
Another case of deforestation lies in the Monarch
CONSEQUENCES OF DEFORESTATION
Deforestation leads to soil erosion and flooding. Forests work
as a natural sponge that soak up excess rain waters and slow
rivers that overflow their banks.
In October 2005 Hurricane Stan hit Mexico's Gulf Coast and
weakened to a tropical depression. The resulting rains caused
rivers to overflow and flooding in seven states killed over
30 people. Environmentalists calculate that 76 percent of forest
cover in Chiapas and 83 percent in Oaxaca have been lost.
Another consquence of deforestation is that soil erosion shortens
the lifespans of hydro-electric dams. Chiapas contributes a
good degree of the nation's electrical supply and continued
deforestation threatens the capability of the plants to generate
How successful are reforestation efforts?