Conserving the Migratory Birds of Mexico's Wetland Ecosystems

By Bogart, Roxanne E. | Endangered Species Bulletin, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Conserving the Migratory Birds of Mexico's Wetland Ecosystems


Bogart, Roxanne E., Endangered Species Bulletin


Step southward across the U.S-Mexico border and you have entered one of the world's most biologically diverse countries. Mexico's complex topography and climate have spawned a multitude of habitats, such as lush tropical forests in Chiapas and the Yucatan, extensive mangroves and coastal lagoons along the Sea of Cortez, and expansive desert scrub and grasslands in Sonora and Chihuahua. In fact, Mexico ranks fourth among nations with high centers of plant diversity.

The nation's bird diversity reflects this great habitat diversity. Mexico supports 1,060 species of birds, or about 11 percent of the world's bird species--more than the U.S. and Canada combined. Mexico ranks fifth in the world for greatest number of endemic bird areas, with 10 percent of the country's bird species found nowhere else in the world. Due to its habitat diversity and strategic positioning at the nearctic and neotropical biogeographic boundary, Mexico holds significant conservation value for migratory birds. Nearly 95 percent of the more than 300 bird species that migrate south out of Canada and the United States use Mexico's ecosystems to overwinter or refuel during long journeys to other parts of Latin America.

The Importance of Mexico's Wetlands

From coastal mangroves and lagoons to inland swamps and marshes to desert lakes and springs, Mexico's wetland ecosystems exemplify the country's natural diversity. Waterfowl, shorebirds, colonial waterbirds, and hundreds of species of landbirds depend upon these bountiful habitats. Mexico's wetland resources also provide services that sustain the quality of life for people. Wetlands control floods and erosion, recharge ground water, filter contaminants, and provide a buffer to hurricanes. Many wetland ecosystems produce impressive quantities of oysters, shrimp, fish, and other valuable resources. Nevertheless, as in the United States and Canada, Mexico's wetlands have been seriously impacted by agriculture and urban development, petroleum production, and overexploitation of resources. Sixty-five percent of Mexico's mangroves, for example, have been deforested.

A Partnership Approach

In 1989, to reverse more than a century of wetland habitat loss throughout North America, the U.S. Congress passed the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. This law created a grants program that encourages organizations and individuals to work jointly for conserving wetland ecosystems for migratory birds and other wildlife. …

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Conserving the Migratory Birds of Mexico's Wetland Ecosystems
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