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Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala

The Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region of northern Guatemala, together with the Maya Forest of Belize and Mexico represents one of the largest areas of tropical forest north of the Amazon and the northernmost tropical forest in the Western Hemisphere. It is also the site of three contiguous UNESCO recognized biosphere reserves: the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala, Calakmul and Montes Azules Biosphere Reserves in the southern Mexico.

The reserve has seven core areas, and includes four national parks and three wildlife reserves which contain high and medium lowland forest, inundated savannas, small fields of pine, caves and rocky habitats, lakes and lagoons, rivers and wetlands and remnant mangrove forests. The multiple use zone is composed of tropical forest dedicated to the sustainable harvest of zate palms, chicle gum, all spice and timber.

Designation date: 1990


Regional network:  Red de Comités y Reservas de Biosfera de Iberoamérica y el Caribe (IberoMAB) 

Ecosystem-based network:




    Surface : 2,090,667 ha

    • Core area(s):  817,260 ha
    • Buffer zone(s):  802,675 ha
    • Transition zone(s):  470,732 ha

    Location: 16°48'N; 90°33' W

    Administrative Authorities

    Ing. Oscar Manuel Nuñez
    Directror Ejecutivo Fundación Defensores de la Naturaleza
    5ta avenida 6-06 zona 1
    Edificio IPM, 5to, 6to, 7to, Nivel 
    Guatemala 0101 

    Tel.: (502) 2291-4600 Ext. 150


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    Ecological Characteristics

    Although there are in Guatemala other sites with greater biodiversity per unit area, clearly the Maya Biosphere Reserve is a place of maximum importance for the conservation of species in the country (WCS 2013). Studies conducted by various scientists in the Biosphere Reserve has placed among the most important places of biological diversity in Guatemala. Estimates account for up to 2,800 species of vascular plants. This value represents 34% of the total number of species that exist in Guatemala. 

    There are timber species of high commercial value such as mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), cedar (Cedrela odorata), santa maría (Calophyllum brasiliense), pucté (Bucida buceras), danto (Vatairea lundellii), malerio (Aspidosperma stegomeris), manchiche (Lonchocarpus castilloi) and ronrón (Astronium graveolens), as well as non-timber species such as fat pepper (Pimenta dioica).

    The Biosphere Reserve is also known for its richness in terms of fauna. It is home to seven species of scorpions, five species of tarantulas, 40 species of coprophagous beetles, 112 species of ants, and 535 species of butterflies. Also, it has at least 41 species of fish, 33 amphibian species -20% of the national total-, 106 reptile species -41% of the national total-, 513 bird species - 71% of the national total -  and 122 mammal species -64% of the national total. In the case of mammals, it is important to note that at least 60 species correspond to bats, representing 55% of the total number of bats reported for the country.

    Socio-Economic Characteristics

    Mixed schemes of sustainable natural resource use, such as community and industrial forest concessions in the Biosphere Reserve, are an example at the regional level. Likewise, the incorporation of communities in the management of funds in Yaxhá National Park, Nakum, Naranjo (core zone of the MBR) are examples of the integration that has existed within the MBR in to reconcile human well-being with the conservation of biological diversity.

    Tourism is the country's second source of income, and the Biosphere Reserve has a great potential in this regard.




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    Last updated: June 2019