Land and Resources, Plant and Animal Life
Much of northern Mexico is covered by desert vegetation, including mesquite, cactus, desert scrub, and some grasses. The higher regions are forested largely with hardwoods such as oak, and needle-leafed trees such as pine and fir. Expansive grasslands also cover large parts of this region. The low-lying areas of southern Mexico are typically covered by tropical rain forests that contain a great variety of trees and ferns. Much of the forests of central Mexico were destroyed before the Spanish conquest or during the colonial era. Deforestation continues at a rapid rate, exceeding 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) a year, while annual reforestation is less than one-tenth of that figure.
Some of the animals found in Central and South America—such as monkeys, tapirs, and jaguars—remain in parts of southern Mexico. This is especially true in the rain forests of Chiapas and the southern Pacific coast, where human settlement is sparse and population densities have remained relatively low compared to the northern regions of the country. As a consequence, more of the natural flora and fauna have survived in southern Mexico. The introduction of large numbers of domesticated animals in central and northern Mexico, as well as the density of human settlement, have considerably reduced the natural wildlife populations in these regions. However, bear, deer, coyote, peccary, and mountain lion remain in the rugged, mountainous regions of the Sierra Madre. Environmental groups have tried to protect Mexico's endangered species, particularly marine turtles, from further exploitation and decline, but 36 bird species, 64 mammal species, 18 reptile species, 86 fish species, 40 invertebrates, and 3 amphibians have been deemed to be threatened in Mexico as of 2001.
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