Saving a biodiversity hotspot in Mexico

Out of 170 countries in the world, only 12 harbour between 60% and 70% of the total biodiversity of the planet – earning them the title of megadiverse

Mexico is one of them, with the wild and mountainous region of Sierra Gorda being considered the most ecologically rich and diverse protected area of the country.

Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Central Mexico © Bethan JohnLooking out across the wild mountains of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve | Image © Bethan John

In 1987, a local woman named Martha ‘Pati’ Isabel Ruiz Corzo decided she must act to save Sierra Gorda bioregion from destruction by unregulated development.

Pati founded a grassroots conservation organisation, Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG), along with her husband and local people who work together to manage the area as a protected nature reserve.

Now the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve spans one million acres and is home to a wealth of wildlife; noisy Military Macaws can be spotted circling the reserve’s sinkhole canyons, the flowering agave plants attract vibrant feasting hummingbirds, while six cat species roam the forests – including top predators the jaguar and puma.

Despite providing a greater safe haven for these wild animals, most of the land within the reserve is privately owned and still at risk from development – the forests suffer from unregulated logging and illegal hunting is a threat to wildlife. The conservationists working for GESG are constantly looking for funds to buy and protect greater areas of threatened habitat, while working with local people to develop sustainable livelihoods.

They are creating opportunities for rural, low-income communities in the areas of ecotourism, reforestation, soil restoration and ecological livestock management. Demonstrating how forests can be managed sustainably, while continuing to provide an income for local people is key to the success of any conservation project – but it’s far from easy.

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