Q. Mexico is one of the six most biologically diverse countries on the planet. But which states in Mexico have the greatest biodiversity?
A. In general, the southern states (which receive the highest amounts of rainfall) have the greatest biodiversity: Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Veracruz.
To answer this question in more detail, it is useful to look at different types of plants and animals.
Mammal species are fairly well distributed throughout Mexico. Three of the wettest states lead in number of mammal species. Chiapas has 205 different species followed by Oaxaca (194) and Veracruz (190). Interestingly, the next highest rated states are in central and northern Mexico: Jalisco (173), Michoacán (163), San Luis Potosí (152), Tamaulipas (145), Puebla (144), Durango (141) and Sonora (139). All states have over 70 mammal species, except for the relatively small states of Aguascalientes (40), Tlaxcala (50) and Guanajuato (65). Mexico as a whole has an impressive 901 mammal species; this figure places it ahead of all other countries.
Mexico is a bird watchers paradise. Veracruz and Oaxaca lead with 635 and 634 different bird species. Chiapas is third with 565 bird species followed by Sonora (445), Jalisco (438), San Luis Potosí (438), Tamaulipas (435) and Michoacán (429). Tlaxcala (86) and Aguascalientes (88) have the fewest number of bird species.
Mexico’s 808 different reptile species places it second, behind only Australia. Relative wet states lead in number of reptile species: Oaxaca (258), Chiapas (224), Veracruz (214) and Guerrero (158). However, the more arid states also have relatively large numbers of reptile species: Sonora (137), Chihuahua (118), Baja California (80) and Baja California Sur (68). Aguascalientes has only 17 reptile species.
Amphibians are very abundant in the wet southeastern states. Chiapas leads with117 amphibian species in followed by Veracruz (109), Oaxaca (106) and Hidalgo (66). Not surprisingly, there are very few amphibian species in desert states. Baja California Sur has only five species while Baja California has 12.
Mexico ranks fourth in the world in number of flowering plant species, behind only Brazil, Colombia and China. Veracruz is the clear leader with 4,907 species, followed by Chiapas (3,833), Oaxaca (3,388) and Jalisco (2,752). States with the fewest species are Aguascalientes (467), Tlaxcala (457) and Baja California Sur (484).
Mexico is also among the world leaders in number gymnosperm (nonflowering plants – mostly conifers and other evergreens) species. Mexico has more species of pine trees than any other country. Veracruz leads with 31 species, followed closely by Nuevo León (30), Durango (29), Oaxaca (28), Hidalgo (27) and Chihuahua (26). Quintana Roo and Campeche have only one species while Colima and Yucatán have only two.
Ferns are also an important part of Mexico’s biodiversity. Chiapas leads with 693 fern species, followed by Oaxaca (669), Veracruz (534), Guerrero (374) and Puebla (297). States on the Yucatán Peninsula have relatively few fern species: Yucatán (25), Campeche (29) and Quintana Roo (39).
Source for the statistics in this post: Semarnat, El ambiente en números 2010, tabla 21: “Riqueza de grupos de species selecionadas, 2008” (CONABIO) (pdf document).
Several of our previous posts have discussed Mexico’s very wide range of climates, ecosystems and species diversity:
- Mexico’s mega-biodiversity
- The diversity of species (plants and animals) in Mexico
- Mexico’s first cooks and the origins of Mexican cuisine
- Las Tuxtlas biosphere reserve in Veracruz, Mexico
- The geography of garden flowers, many of which originated in Mexico
Chapter 5 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico focuses on Mexico’s ecosystems and biodiversity. Chapter 30 analyzes environmental issues and trends including current environmental threats and efforts to protect the environment. Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!