Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Guatemala is considered as a country with great biodiversity at all levels. At the cultural level, 25 sociolinguistic groups have been identified, with each one possessing distinctive traditional knowledge. At the ecological level, Guatemala hosts 7 biomes, and 14 ecoregions, among them the unique Thorny Scrub of the Motagua Valley. Floral diversity includes 7,754 species of recorded plants, 40% that are endemic to Mesoamerica. Faunal diversity displays a similar pattern, for example Guatemala hosts 2% of all species of the family Scarabeidae. There are 2,027-recorded vertebrate species in Guatemala, 62 of which are endemic.
Guatemala also hosts a large amount of forest, which is important not only for subsistence purposes, but for many national traditions as well. Almost 51% of the country’s 10,889,369.52 ha is covered with forest. The main threats faced by the forests are agricultural expansion and forest fires. The main forest conservation strategy is through the implementation of forest concessions, as local communities and private enterprises manage the majority of forestland. Currently, this modality takes into account approximately 375,000.00ha of forestland.
Guatemala contains 300 bodies of water, which are home to several local and migratory bird populations and 12 species of endemic fish. Of particular importance are the 70,000 km2 of marine area.
According to Vavilov, Guatemala is part of the Mesoamerican centre of crop genetic diversity and also a place of domestication of important crops, like maize, and beans. In the case of maize, 52% of the races known in Mesoamerica are present in Guatemala. For bean species (Phaseolus spp), the country recorded 24% of all species as well as 43% of pumpkin species (Cucurbita spp). Moreover, Guatemala has many genetic materials unique to the country, such as the yuca (Manihot spp).
The export of some biodiversity resources, such as several bromeliad species (Thillandsia spp), is of high economic importance to the Guatemalan economy. Several of the plant species found in Guatemala form part of a multi-million dollar industry worldwide. Some of these species are also key elements, not only for the economic development of some countries, but also for subsistence purposes.
CONAP, as a representative governmental agency, has the responsibility to formulate, implement and disseminate the National Biodiversity Strategy, and after careful revision, the main gaps in its application were established. For this reason, the project “Definition of National Priorities and Assessment of Capacity Building Needs of Biodiversity in Guatemala” was conducted. The project was implemented in two phases: i) establishment of capacity building needs in biodiversity, and ii) implementation of a Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM). The first phase encompass four components: a) a follow-up and evaluation program, with a focus on taxonomy; b) implementation of activities for in situ and ex situ conservation, and the sustainable use of biodiversity, c) development of conservation incentive measures, d) actions to address access and benefit sharing to genetic resources, as well as a proposal for both a national agenda on research of wild and neglected species and an agenda on conservation of genetic resources. The second phase consists of the initiation of the CHM, and its link to the information system of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
As of January 2012, Guatemala’s protected areas system comprises the following data: (a) total number of protected areas = 220; (b) total hectarage of protected areas = 3,482,765.71; (c) total hectarage of terrestrial protected areas = 3,380,176.71; (d) total hectarage of maritime protected areas = 102, 589.00; (e) total percentage of the country declared as protected areas = 31.042407 %. This data does not include protected areas that are themselves included within (or inside) other protected areas of higher management category (official data). Details also available on the CONAP web portal