Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Ecosystem Services in Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Oak forest, Mexico

Oak forest, Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Site location and ownership

Situated in the state of Queretaro, the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve covers an area of over 383,000 ha. The WLT works here with partner Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG).

Biodiversity value

Biodiversity levels within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve are exceptional. Much of this can be attributed to two key factors:

  • The Reserve encompasses a wide range of geophysical landscapes from low-lying desert basins and steep-sided ravines to mountain peaks of over 3,100m.
  • Queretaro State straddles the boundary of two of the world’s eight biogeographic realms – the Nearctic and the Neotropic – resulting in the mixing of species common to both North and South America.

15 different vegetation types are present within Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, including evergreen and deciduous forest, oak forests, pine forests and cloud forests, and open, low stature plant communities rich in cacti.

Liquidambar secondary forest

Liquidambar secondary forest, Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

2,300 species of vascular plants have been recorded within the reserve, including Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides), Mayan Breadnut (Brosimum alicastrum) and Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus echinocactus).

The 131 mammal species recorded make this the richest area for mammals in Mexico. All six cat species found in Mexico occur here: Jaguar (Panthera onca) (classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), Puma (Puma concolor), Bobcat (Felis rufus), Margay (Leopardus wiedii) (Near Threatened), Ocelot (Felis pardalis) and Jaguarundi (Felis yagouaroundi).

Other mammal species present include Black Bear (Ursus americanus) , Neotropical Otter (Lutra longicaudis) and Queretaro Pocket Gopher (Cratogeomys neglectus).

Birds species recorded include Military Macaw (Ara militaris) (Vulnerable), Great Curassow (Crax rubra) (Vulnerable), Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Bearded Wood-Partridge (Dendrortyx barbatu) and the Maroon-fronted Parrot (Rhynchopsitta terrisi) (Vulnerable).

Conservation action

Much of the land within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve is in private ownership and subject to numerous threats, chief amongst these being cattle ranching, slash and burn forest clearance, illegal hunting, timber extraction and inefficient agricultural practices which lead to soil erosion.

WLT is supporting GESG by raising funds for land purchase, including through the Carbon Balanced programme.

Watershed protection

Watershed protection, Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

Carbon Balanced Programme

GESG has been undertaking a carbon sequestration programme in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve since 2005, providing small-holders with incentives to re-establish native pine forest on over-grazed and eroding plots. Although these actions are undertaken by individual landowners, GESG support and monitor the programme carefully to ensure that the emissions offsets generated as a result of the reforestation are real, additional and verifyable.

GESG’s carbon sequestration programme is designed with the same principles at heart as the Carbon Balanced programme – delivering robust emissions offsets while promoting biodiversity conservation. WLT has supported conservation within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in various ways for a number of years and in 2007 chose to extend this support to the purchase of emissions offsets equating to over 3,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Community benefits

Queretaro State is home to some of the most socially deprived communities in Mexico. Through its conservation programmes GESG aims to improve the socio-economic standing of communities within the region. The organisation works extensively with local people, demonstrating that conservation of the natural environment can also be used as a means to generate income. It is involved in schemes of community improvement and environmental education as well as helping develop environmentally responsible businesses, such as Sierra Gorda Eco-tours; an eco-tourism programme that reinvests the revenues generated back into the Reserve’s environmental protection and community development programmes.

GESG’s smallholder-based carbon sequestration programme provides a direct financial incentive for landowners to preserve and enhance habitats on the land they own. These reforestation actions provide an important subsidiary income for many residents of these isolated and disadvantaged communities and lends the entire approach significant social credibility, facilitating other conservation work.

In addition to carbon sequestration, the reforestation programme helps conserve watersheds. This is aided by parallel work designed to rehabilitate local water supplies.

The future

WLT has already enabled Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda (GESG) to purchase 1,779 acres (720 ha) within the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. WLT is continuing to raise funds to help GESG purchase and protect more wildlife habitat in this area of high biological importance.

Sierra Gorda Reserve Map

Sierra Gorda reserve map

Click on image for larger map

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