Salamanders (Bolitoglossa rufescens) in Guatemala.
© Robin Moore

The Mesoamerican forests are the third largest among the world's hotspots. Their spectacular endemic species include quetzals, howler monkeys, and 17,000 plant species.

The region is also a corridor for many Neotropical migrant bird species. The hotspot's montane forests are important for amphibians, many endemic species of which are in dramatic decline due to an interaction between habitat loss, fungal disease and climate change.


Hotspot Original Extent (km²) 1,130,019
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²) 226,004
Endemic Plant Species 2,941
Endemic Threatened Birds 31
Endemic Threatened Mammals 29
Endemic Threatened Amphibians 232
Extinct Species† 7
Human Population Density (people/km²) 72
Area Protected (km²) 142,103
Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV* 63,902
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.


Spanning most of Central America, the Mesoamerica Hotspot encompasses all subtropical and tropical ecosystems from central Mexico to the Panama Canal. This includes all of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, as well as a third of Mexico and nearly two-thirds of Panama.

In Mexico, the hotspot extends as far north as northern Sinaloa (Río Fuerte) on the Pacific Coast and as far as the middle of the Sierra Madre Oriental (west of Tampico) on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and includes the entire area of the Mexican states of Chiapas, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche, Veracruz, as well as portions of the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla, México, Michoacán, Morelos, Querétaro, Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Sinaloa, Durango, Sonora, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas. The hotspot does not encompass the subtropical pine-oak forest in the higher elevations of the Sierra Madre Oriental and Occidental ranges, here included in the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot.

This hotspot also includes a number of nearshore and offshore islands in both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, which are important biologically due to the presence of endemic species and as nesting areas for seabirds. These islands include the Revillagigedos, Tres Marías Islands, and Cozumel, all belonging to Mexico, Islas de la Bahía (Honduras), Cocos (Costa Rica), Providencia and San Andrés (Colombia), and Coiba (Panama), as well as Clipperton Island (France).

The hotspot's major ecosystems are a complex mosaic of dry forests, lowland moist forest, and montane forests. Intermittent coastal swamps and mangrove forests along the Pacific coast from Mexico to Panama give way to broad-leaved and coniferous forests at higher altitudes. East of the mountains, the Caribbean lowlands are home to moist, subtropical wet forests and rain forests. In the southern part of the hotspot, broad-leaved premontane and montane hardwood forests occupy steep and cloud-shrouded slopes.

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