In terms of botanical diversity, the cloud forests of Mexico are exceptionally rich, with over 2,800 plant species recorded within them, 25% of which are trees. However, a new Red List of these trees has revealed that 60% are threatened with extinction.
The cloud forests of Mexico are mostly found on steep slopes and protected ravines in tropical and subtropical mountain areas. However, this has not prevented them from becoming severely threatened in recent years by deforestation and the effects of global climate change.
The Red List of Mexican Cloud Forest Trees is based on collaboration of a number of cloud forest experts taking part in several workshops between 2007 and 2009. The project was led by Dr Mario Gonzalez-Espinosa of El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Chiapas, Mexico, with support from colleagues throughout Mexico, and Prof. Adrian Newton of Bournemouth University.
The report details the IUCN conservation status of 762 tree species and also includes information on current and potential uses of each species, in the hope that this will help promote sustainable resource management and conservation in the future.
Various parts of trees found in the forest are used to make products as diverse as baseball bats, toothpaste, clothing dyes and hammocks and several species have edible parts or medicinal properties. Some species are also important culturally, with one being used during the important Día de Muertos folk festival.
Despite the ecological, economic and cultural importance of these forests, they are not well represented within the country’s protected area network. The new Red List report will provide a solid scientific foundation on which conservation strategies can now be built.
“The collection of information on tree species of conservation concern is vital for planning conservation action and the restoration of forest ecosystems” said Sarah Oldfield, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Global Tree Specialist Group.
“The results of this assessment indicate that over 60% of the trees of Mexican cloud forests are threatened with extinction. Clearly action must be taken to conserve and restore the forests” she added