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Mesoamerica Hotspot

Extending from Panama to Mexico in Central America, and covering an area of 1,130,019 sq km the Mesoamerican region is the world's third largest biodiversity hotspot. The region has an interesting mix of forest types-dry forest, lowland moist forest, montane forests, broad-leafed and coniferous forests, moist subtropical wet forests and rainforests, cloud forests, broad-leafed premontane and montane hardwood forests-and include coastal swamps and mangrove forests.

The hotspot has over 17,000 species of plants and many commercially important sources of timber like Pacific mahogany (Swietenia humilisi), Spanish cedar (Cedrela odorata), rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii), big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla). Over 300 species of cacti are also found here. One of the interesting endemic plant species is the Lacandonia schismatica, having inside-out flowers i.e., the stamens surrounded by pistils.

The region has 440 mammal, 1,113 bird, 692 reptile, 555 amphibian and 509 freshwater fish species. It is a major nesting hub for a migratory bird population of 225 species as three major trans-regional migratory bird routes converge at this hotspot. Some of the notable bird species are the resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), horned guan (Oreophasis derbianus) and endemics like the Honduran emerald (Amazilia luciae) and the Cozumel thrasher (Toxostoma guttatum).

Flagship mammalian species of the region include the Central American spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi), Mexican black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra), Central American squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), Baird's tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and the jaguar (Panthera onca). Small mammal diversity is rather high and notable of these are the endemics Cozumel harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys spectabilis), Cozumel raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus), Van Gelder's bat (Bauerus dubiaquercus), the Yucatán vesper rat (Otonyctomys hatti) and Bang's mountain squirrel (Syntheosciurus brochus).

The hotspot has beaches that are important nesting sites for marine turtles like the green turtles (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea). Also found here is the endemic Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) and the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii), one of the worlds most highly threatened freshwater turtles. Amphibian diversity and endemism is also high with the region having a large number of salamanders and the extremely threatened golden toad (Bufo periglenes).

Conversion of forests for agriculture and livestock development, logging, oil and mineral extraction have all caused severe deforestation. About 13% or 142,103 sq km of land is under some form of protection in Mesoamerica.

[The information has been sourced from the Conservation International website on biodiversity hotspots ( Accessed in February 2008.]

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