7 junio, 2024

Natural regions of Mexico: what they are, what they are and their characteristics

What are the Mexican natural regions?

The natural regions of Mexico There are six in total: the desert, the grasslands and scrublands, the forests, the dry forest, the humid forest and the marine region. These areas are distributed forming a mosaic that is home to a great biological diversity and variety of ecosystems.

This is one of the reasons why Mexico is among the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. The region that occupies the largest extension of the Mexican territory is the desert, with two large formations that are the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts.

It is followed in extension by the region of the forests, located mainly in the elevations of the mountains that cross the country. While to the south are the humid jungles, highlighting the Lacandona jungle.

On the other hand, the dry forests develop mainly towards the areas near the coasts, both of the Pacific and the Atlantic. Likewise, there are grasslands and scrublands, which cover large areas of the territory.

Finally, Mexico has extensive marine areas both in the Pacific Ocean, where the Gulf of California stands out, and in the Atlantic. In the latter is the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

What are the natural regions of Mexico?

1. The desert

The desert region is characterized by low rainfall not exceeding 700 mm on average per year. With high temperatures during the day and low temperatures at night, as well as very hot summers and very cold winters.

Regarding the relief, in Mexico there are deserts on flat terrain such as that of Chihuahua, which is covered with grasses. There are also some with sand dunes, such as the Altar Desert in Sonora and the Cuatrociénagas Desert in Coahuila.

This is the region that covers the largest proportion of the Mexican territory, especially in its northern half. In Mexico there are two large desert regions, the Chihuahuan desert and the Sonoran desert.

The Sonoran desert occupies almost the entire California Peninsula, northwest and central Sonora, and northern Sinaloa. While the Chihuahuan desert includes eastern Chihuahua, much of Coahuila de Zaragoza, Nueva León and Tamaulipas.

Similarly, part of eastern Durango, north and northeast of Zacatecas, center and north of San Luis de Potosí. Later extending through a narrow corridor through parts of Querétaro, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Oaxaca.

Cacti are characteristic of this region, such as the giant saguaros (giant carnegiea). In addition to other species such as lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla) and yucca or palmita (yucca elata).

While among the animals are the coyote (canis latrans), the Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus). Also found is the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) and the desert rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii)

2. Grasslands and scrublands

This natural region encompasses different ecosystems where trees are scarce. In the grasslands, species of the grass family dominate, while in the bushes, various species of shrubs no higher than 4 meters dominate.

Includes tall and short grasslands of temperate prairies, grasslands on gypsum-rich soils or on saline soils, and alpine grasslands. The latter occur in the high mountains above the line where trees grow.

While among the scrub, there is a great variety such as the dry or xerophytic scrub, the thorny scrub and the unarmed (without thorns). Like the cardonales, tetecheras, izotales, nopaleras and the scrub of small leaves. In addition to the magueyales, lechuguillales, guapillales and chaparrales.

In most cases, Mexican grasslands occur in temperate climate zones at altitudes between 1,100 and 2,500 meters above sea level. They are semi-arid territories with a cool climate, with average temperatures between 12 and 20 °C and annual rainfall between 300 and 600 mm.

On the other hand, the bushes also develop in dry climates, but with less rainfall, between 300 and 700 mm. While temperatures can be warm or cool.

Grasslands occupy areas in the north of the country in states such as Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and Jalisco.

While the bushes are widely distributed, especially in the north of the country, from sea level to 3,000 meters above sea level.

In the grassland flora, grass species predominate, such as navajita grass (bouteloua spp.), buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) and the llanero grass (Eragrostis intermedia). Among the few trees are the mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and the ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

While in the bushes, the variety of species is greater and typical of each type. For example, in the cardonales the cacti dominate, while in the mesquite it is the mesquite (prosopis spp.).

The izotales are dominated by the izotes (yucca spp.) and in the tetecheras, the tetechos (Neobuxbaumia tetetzo). Likewise, there are various species of agaváceas or magueyes in the maguey groves.

For its part, the fauna of the grassland includes species such as the Mexican prairie dog (Cynomys mexicanus) and the black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus). As well as the pronghorn (antilocapra americana), the bison (bison bison) and the northern fox (vulpes macrotis).

In the case of the bushes, the fauna varies according to its type, sharing many species with the grassland. In addition to other species such as the collared peccary (tajacu peccary), the Puma (puma concolor), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and badger (Taxidea taxus).

3. The forest

This region includes all ecosystems where trees predominate in a temperate or subtropical climate and is the second largest natural region. There is a great diversity of forests, from coniferous forests to oak and mixed forests.

The predominant climate is subhumid to humid temperate, influenced by latitude and relief, since these forests are established in mountains and plateaus. Average temperatures range from 12 to 23 °C, while rainfall is between 600 and 1,000 mm.

This region extends through the mountains in the altitude range between 1,200 and 3,000 meters above sea level. It covers the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Neovolcanic Axis, and the southern sierras in Oaxaca and Chiapas.

The forests of Mexico are the richest in the world in pine species (Pinus spp.), with about 50 species. Like oaks (quercus spp.) with around 150 species. There are also other species of conifers such as the ayarín (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and the oyamel (Abies religious).

Within the fauna, the monarch butterfly stands out, whose favorite plant species in its migration is the oyamel. Temperate forests are the habitat of the Mexican wolf (Canis lupus baileyi), black bear (ursus americanus), the northern coati (nasua narica) and the puma (puma concolor).

4. The dry forest

This includes the areas of Mexico where deciduous forests grow, in which most species lose their foliage in the dry season. In Mexico, these jungles are also called low jungles, because the average height of the trees is from 8 to 15 m.

These jungles occur in a tropical and subtropical climate, with little rainfall and relatively high temperatures in summer. Temperatures normally reach 29 °C in summer and rainfall ranges from 300 to 1,200 mm per year.

They occur in flat coastal reliefs to low mountainous areas, ranging from 0 to 1,900 meters above sea level.

It is located on the Pacific slope in the lower parts of the Sierra Madre Occidental from Sonora to Chiapas. In this last state they can even reach the seashore.

They also extend in the Balsas River basin to Morelos in the Sierra de Huahutla. As well as from the isthmus of Tehuantepec to the central depression of Chiapas. While on the Atlantic slope it is distributed in patches from Tamaulipas to Veracruz and on the Yucatan peninsula, in the states of Campeche and Yucatan.

Common trees in this region include the Chinese copal (bipinnate bursera), the copal santo (Bursera copallifera) and the bunting (erithryna spp). As well as palms like the coyul (Acrocomia aculeata) and the guano palm (sabal japa).

While among the fauna are the anteater or strong arm (mexican tamandua), the Armadillo (Dasypus novemsinctus) and the raccoon (procyon lotor). Like the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and the collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu).

While of the felines are the jaguarundi (Herpailerus yagouaroundi), the ocelot (leopardus pardalis), the Puma (puma concolor) and the jaguar (panthera onca).

5. The humid jungle

Dense evergreen forests develop in this region, with trees of different heights and a large number of plants that climb and live on the trees. Distinguishing in Mexico two basic types of humid forest, the evergreen high forest and the medium forest.

There is a warm tropical climate, with high rainfall and high temperatures in summer. They are areas where the rain is continuous, at least 9 months a year in the high jungles and 7 months in the middle jungles.

The average annual temperature in these forests is around 22 °C and rainfall exceeds 3,000 mm per year. The relief ranges from flat plateau areas, undulating plains to mountainous areas.

This region originally extended from San Luis de Potosí, Veracruz, Tabasco, areas of Puebla, a large part of Oaxaca and Chiapas, to the border with Guatemala. Today only 10% of the original area of ​​humid forests in Mexico remains. One of the most preserved jungle areas is the Lacandona jungle in Chiapas.

This region presents a high diversity of both plants and animals, being the habitat of emblematic species such as the jaguar (panthera onca). Primates such as the spider monkey (ateles geoffroyi) and the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata).

Similarly, various birds, such as the harpy eagle (harpy harpyja), The toucan (Ramphastos spp.) and the scarlet macaw (ara macau). The flora abounds in trees such as matapalos (Ficus spp.), the raft (Ochroma pyramidale), the job (spondias mombin), the cuajilote (parmentiera aculeata) and the ceiba (kapok pentandra), a tree considered sacred by the indigenous people.

6. The marine region

This region includes all the marine zones of Mexico, being divided into two large areas, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. The prevailing climate ranges from temperate in the north to tropical in the south.

On the Atlantic side is the Gulf of Mexico and on the southern coast of Yucatan the Mexican Caribbean. While in the Pacific, the Sea of ​​Cortez or the Gulf of California stands out.

The characteristic flora is marine with a predominance of algae and aquatic angiosperm plants. While the fauna includes a large number of species of fish, crustaceans, marine mammals and other groups typical of these environments.


Balvanera, P., Arias, E., Rodríguez-Estrella, R., Almeida-Leñero, L., Schmitter-Soto, JJ (2016). A look at the knowledge of the ecosystems of Mexico.
Calow, P. (Ed.) (1998). The…

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