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      Biosphere Reserve Information



  General Description   Ría Lagartos Biosphere Reserve is located in the Eastern end of the coastal strip of the Yucatán Peninsula, with the Gulf of Mexico at its Northern limit. The area encompasses coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico and includes important wetlands designated under the Ramsar Wetlands Convention. The site presents a rich diversity of landscapes and ecosystems, such as mangroves, small estuaries, medium semi-evergreen forest, low deciduous forest, coastal dune vegetation, coastal lagoons, marshes (petenes) and savannah represented by tular vegetation, grasslands and reedbeds that are the main nesting sites for marshland and sea birds. Ría Lagartos extends throughout a great wetland area, which represents a good specific example of a community characteristic for this climatic zone. High biological productivity, due to conditions of marine to hyper-salinity in a karst environment, is the reason why the area is considered a globally unique wetland. The wetlands host a significant number of rare, vulnerable or endangered animal and plant species, such as the muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), wood stork (Mycteria americana) and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus). The American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber) comes to the area in great numbers to feed, nest and reproduce. The beaches are also of great interest and are a protective zone for nesting marine turtles, recognized as one of the main zones of arrival of the hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) and the only one in the State of Yucatan for the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Furthermore, there are 554 vertebrate species, amongst them 142 endemics.

Given its geographic position, the peninsula keeps a floristic relation with the neighbouring regions of Central America, the River basin of the Caribbean Sea and Southeastern Mexico. The more recent inventories report the presence of 2,477 species and 98 varieties of vascular plants. In the last years, the vegetation has been strongly affected by human activities, particularly by agriculture and livestock raising, practices that imply the destruction of vast surfaces of vegetation. Also, it has been affected by natural catastrophes like the hurricanes that regularly hit this region and the subsequent forest fires. The communities located in the Biosphere Reserve are San Felipe, Río Lagartos, Las Coloradas and El Cuyo. 6,916 permanent residents live in the buffer zone. The use of natural resources dates back to the pre-Hispanic period. The main productive activities today include fishing, agriculture, livestock rearing, salt extraction, tourism, aquaculture and urban development. The ecotourism activity is stimulated to promote the participation of local inhabitants in the conservation of the natural, archaeological, historical and cultural heritage of the Biosphere Reserve, providing appropriate economic and social benefits.

From a cultural point of view, the territory includes an important Mayan zone dating back to the period of 300 to 50 years BC. The territory belonged to the chieftainship of Ecab in the pre-Hispanic period. In the area 18 of the 1,585 Yucatan archaeological sites have been located. In addition, the Reserve counts 3 of the 8 "concheros" (banks of marine shells) that exist in the State.
  Major ecosystem type   Tropical dry or deciduous forest; Wetlands; Mangroves
  Major habitats & land cover types   Mangroves characterized by Laguncularia racemosa, Conocarpus erectus, Rhizophora mangle and Avicennia germinans; Low deciduous forest with Bursera simaruba, Caesalpinia gaumeri, Acacia pennatula etc.; Medium semi-evergreen forest; flooded meadows with Cladium jamaicensis, Phragmites australis, Eleocharis cellulosa, E. caribaea etc.; Coastal dunes characterized by Agave sisalana, Coccoloba uvifera, Coccotrinax readii etc low flood forest with Haematoxylum campechianum, Cameraria latifolia, Metopium brownei etc.; Marshes (petenes) with a rich variety of families such as Metopium, Ficus, Plumeria, Manilkara, Thrinax and Sabal.
  Location   21°23' 96" to 21°37'29.64"N; 87°30'50.76" to 88°14'33.36"W
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   60,348
  Core area(s)   23,681.55
  Buffer zone(s)   36,666.28
  Transition area(s) when given   Not defined
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   0 to +2
  Year designated   2004
  Administrative authorities   Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (CONANP), Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Dirección de la Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Lagartos
  Brief description   The zonation divides the area in units aimed at the fulfilment of the objectives of the Biosphere Reserve, prescribing activities for the use of the natural resources in each zone. The criteria to designate the zones are representativeness, degree of disturbance, ecological vulnerability, land use etc. There are six core areas. The buffer zone contains restoration areas, salt extraction areas, farming and human settlements and two types of management practices, restricted use and moderate use of natural resources.

Climatic and hydrological monitoring resulting in information on ecosystem trends and health; Monitoring on aquatic and terrestrial birds as indicator species and to give an indication on the ecosystem health; Programme on the safeguarding of the American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber), with the restoration of nesting zones to strengthen the nesting colony of the area; Reforestation programme with native plants with the installation of areas to mitigate the deforestation caused by man or fires; Activities with local people to initiate new alternative economic activites such as ecotourism to improve the economy of the inhabitants.
  Specific variables...    
  Abiotic   n.a.
  Biodiversity   n.a.
  Socio-economic   n.a.
  Integrated monitoring   n.a.
  Contact address   René Kantún Palma
Directora de la Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Lagartos

C.P. 97070 Mérida, Yucatán
  Telephone   (52) (999) 926 0077
(52) (999) 938 0708
  Fax   (999) 926 0077
(999) 942 1336

Last updated: 01/10/2007

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