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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Mexico is distinguished as one of the world’s megadiverse countries and centers of domestication and origin of cultivated plants. The Natural Capital of Mexico (CONABIO, 2008-2009) remains the benchmark document on the status of Mexican biodiversity. Since its publication, certain thematic analyses have been carried out; however, a comprehensive updating of data is still to be developed.

According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) in 2011, over a quarter (28.7%) of Mexican territory has lost its natural ecosystems while the remaining portion (71.3%) is characterized by different levels of conservation. Also, the natural vegetation that remains is impacted by significant degradation processes. In 2011, only 49.5% of the remaining expanse of rainforests and forests was associated to a primary state of conservation. On the other hand, the annual rate of loss of terrestrial ecosystems over the last 20 years indicates a downward trend. For example, between 1976 and 1993, the annual rate of loss of rainforests was 0.57% and, between 2007 and 2011, this figure dropped to 0.3%; in the same period, the rate of loss of temperate forests dropped from 0.09% to 0.02%, and from 0.26% to 0.14% for scrubland. With regard to natural coastal vegetation, it is estimated that 31,656 km2 were lost between 1976 and 2000. As for mangroves specifically, an estimated extension of 764,486 hectares in 2010 ranked Mexico fourth worldwide for the largest extensions of this ecosystem. In spite of this development, the country has not been able to halt the decline in mangroves which are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution and resource overexploitation.

Areas intended for agricultural activities comprise the highest percentage of land use on Mexican territory. However, it is recognized that the country has not realized the economic potential of this wealth of agrobiodiversity, including its genetic diversity, due mainly to the absence of incentives to promote diversification of agricultural crops. For example, in 2012, 53% of the total cultivated surface corresponded to grain maize, Poaceae and grain sorghum only. In the area of aquaculture, shrimp is the main species cultivated, with epicontinental aquaculture mainly based on two introduced species (carp from Asia and tilapia from Africa) which has contributed to the local extinction of native species, some of which are endemic. In coastal zones, sardine production is highest, followed by tuna.

A long tradition exists in Mexico of utilizing non-timber forest products (NTFPs), particularly in indigenous and local communities, which is significantly linked to traditional knowledge. These products are used for food, medicines, ornamentals, construction materials, fertilizer, dye, among other uses. While it is recognized that these products constitute an economic potential for these communities, the lack of government plans and development strategies, together with unclear regulations, among other factors, currently limit this potential. While Mexico is also rich in timber resources, timber production also remains below its potential; for example, roundwood production fell by more than 30% between 2001 and 2011.

It is recognized that priority should be given to the development and application of tools to assess ecosystem services, both in monetary and non-monetary terms, to advance mainstreaming of criteria for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in public policies. Examples of activities currently being undertaken by Mexico in this regard relate to the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Experimental Ecosystem Accounting (EEA), the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) programme.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main pressures are classified under six themes: ecosystem degradation and loss; overexploitation of species; introduction of invasive alien species; pollution; climate change; and urbanization.

Regarding climate change, an average annual temperature increase of 0.6 °C was registered between 1971 and 2008. Based on data from the National Center for Disaster Prevention, it is estimated that in the last decade the annual average costs to address damages linked to climate change were 21,368 million pesos.

The evaluation of pressures and threats on biodiversity poses significant challenges. For example, institutions generate information about environmental degradation processes (e.g. water, soil and air pollution) focused on specific sites in monitoring networks (as is the case with water and air), and evaluate the degree of impact on the environment in general terms, not the impacts these processes have on biodiversity (e.g. impact on populations, ecological interactions). In addition, information on the impacts of illicit activities such as logging and illegal trade in species is also limited.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

Mexico adopted its first NBSAP in 2000. Its implementation contributed to increasing the level of biodiversity knowledge, including status and threats, institutional capacity and social awareness.

Mexico is currently updating its NBSAP along six strategic lines (knowledge, conservation and restoration, sustainable management and use, factors related to pressures and threats, environmental education and culture, mainstreaming and governance), first identified in the document Natural Capital of Mexico: Strategic actions for valuation, preservation and restoration (2012), on which the revised NBSAP is based.

Since 2002, through the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), the development of State Biodiversity Strategies has been promoted to improve human and institutional local capacities in planning and managing biodiversity activities. Twenty-two states in Mexico are currently involved in this initiative, which includes the formulation of both state biodiversity studies and state biodiversity strategies. With the participation of close to 2500 local, national and international experts, twelve states of Mexico have published their own biodiversity studies, of which 9 (Morelos, Michoacan, Aguascalientes, Veracruz, Chiapas, Puebla, Guanajuato, Chihuahua and Campeche) have already begun implementing their strategies. Furthermore, in 2013, Morelos decreed the creation the first State Commission for Biodiversity, while the second Commission was established in Veracruz in 2014.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Positive incentives have been developed for the environmental sector and, even though a comprehensive analysis of incentives offered by other sectors is yet to be developed, the merging of common agendas between the environmental sector and the forestry, agricultural, fisheries and tourism sectors is currently underway in order to mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity within their plans, programs and policies.

In 2005, efforts were initiated to identify and assess areas of priority for conservation in three environments (terrestrial, marine, epicontinental aquatic). Results revealed that a significant portion of these areas was not contained within a protected area or protection scheme. In 2012, a proposal aimed at addressing conservation priorities for the most vulnerable species and areas in an integrated manner, and in the context of sustainable territorial development strategy, resulted in the designation of priority sites for conservation in the three environments. The results of ecoregional analyses were also considered. Today, this classification serves to guide implementation of various in situ conservation tools, such as protected areas, biological corridors, social and private reserves, integrated management programmes, payment for environmental services, management units for the conservation of wildlife and sustainable forest management programmes.

Between 2009 and 2015, 11 new protected areas were established bringing the total number to 176, increasing coverage by 1.44 million hectares, for a total current coverage of 25.63 million hectares (12.96% of the country). Likewise, the past five years have been very important in developing management programs for protected areas; currently 76% of the protected areas under federal jurisdiction have management programs. In 2012, the National Wetland Inventory was developed, through which 6,331 wetland and wetland complexes were identified covering 10.03 million hectares (5% of the surface country). Of this total, 8.64 million hectares are registered as Ramsar sites. Between 2009 and 2015, 30 additional Ramsar sites were registered bringing the current total to 142.

In 1997, the System of Management Units for the Conservation of Wildlife (SUMA) was established. As of December 2015, a total 12,586 units had been created, with an extension of around 39 million hectares, representing 19% of the national area. Further to the General Law on Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, six networks of fish refuge zones have been established, covering an area of 889,798.9 hectares in February 2016.

Knowledge, use and conservation of genetic diversity is an emerging field in Mexico with progress to date achieved mainly at the academic and research levels. CONABIO is currently promoting research in the field of agricultural biodiversity, particularly in relation to native maize.

Mexico was the first megadiverse country to ratify the Nagoya Protocol on ABS in 2012. Two projects are currently underway to address the participation of key stakeholders and strengthen the legal and institutional framework in this area.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Recently-adopted laws include the Federal Law on Environmental Responsibility (2013) and the General Law on Climate Change (2012). The list of Priority Species and Populations for Conservation (2014) was also formalized. Mexico’s revised NBSAP will address harmonizing the legal and regulatory frameworks at all levels of government in order to support institutions and conduct functions in a coordinated manner, with the effective participation of citizens.

The Biosafety Law on Genetically Modified Organisms was adopted in 2005. Mexico also possesses a National Biosafety Policy and is undertaking considerable efforts to strengthen mechanisms to ensure biosafety.

A positive trend exists regarding national (public expenditure) and international funding for biodiversity; however, no systematic analysis has been conducted regarding the funding available to other sectors in this regard.

Mexico has a wide variety of institutional information systems for collecting current information on biodiversity components (e.g. National System on Biodiversity Information; National System of Information on the Environment and Natural Resources; National System of Forest Information (CONAFOR); System of Information on Agrifood and Fisheries). Support is also provided by the National Institute on Statistics and Geography. Capacity for developing bioinformatic applications also exists.

Monitoring programmes for certain species, such as the Morelet’s crocodile (Mexico-Belize-Guatemala) and the felines of Manantlán, are being carried out.

The National Development Plan (2013-2018) concretely addresses the issue of biodiversity under one of the Plan’s five national goals entitled “Mexico Próspero”. This goal contains objectives, strategies and lines of action for the country’s production sectors and the environmental sector. Sectoral programmes were developed in 2013 and derived from the National Development Plan and cover the 2013-2018 period. Impact indicators to monitor and evaluate implementation of these sectoral programmes have been developed which constitutes a key difference between these programmes and those developed by other administrations.

Mexico has also recently developed important development strategies and policies linked directly to biodiversity. Examples include the National Strategy on Invasive Species in Mexico: Prevention, Control and Eradication (2010), the Climate Change Strategy for Protected Areas (2010), the National Strategy for Sustainable Land Management (2010), and the Mexican Strategy for Plant Conservation (2012-2030).

Through the strategy on biological corridors in southeastern Mexico, models for sustainable land management are promoted through the coordination of public policy, the strengthening of local governance and the sustainable use of natural resources to improve the quality of life of the population. Activities are currently being carried out in eleven biological corridors in six states. The strategy stems from experience gained since 2001 from the implementation in Mexico of the Mesoamerica Biological Corridor initiative.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

A mechanism for comprehensively monitoring and reviewing NBSAP implementation is absent. While the existence of the various aforementioned public information systems facilitates the collection of information, there is a need to increase the quantity and quality of information on various issues, develop ad hoc indicator and monitoring systems, among other needs, to fulfill the goals of the Convention and the current global framework.

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  • United Nations Environment Programme