Mexico is one of the most floristically rich countries in the world. Despite significant contributions made on the understanding of its unique flora, the knowledge on its diversity, geographic distribution and human uses, is still largely fragmented. Unfortunately, deforestation is heavily impacting this country and native tree species are under threat. The loss of trees has a direct impact on vital ecosystem services, affecting the natural capital of Mexico and people’s livelihoods. Given the importance of trees in Mexico for many aspects of human well-being, it is critical to have a more complete understanding of their diversity, distribution, traditional uses and conservation status. We aimed to produce the most comprehensive database and catalogue on native trees of Mexico by filling those gaps, to support their in situ and ex situ conservation, promote their sustainable use, and inform reforestation and livelihoods programmes.
A database with all the tree species reported for Mexico was prepared by compiling information from herbaria and reviewing the available floras. Species names were reconciled and various specialised sources were used to extract additional species information, i.e. endemic status, threat status, availability in seed collections, reports on plant uses and conservation actions currently in place. With this information, a comprehensive catalogue of native trees from Mexico was redacted. Available georeferenced records were used to map each species distribution and perform spatial analyses to identify gaps of information and priority areas for their conservation and exploration.
Mexico has at least 2,885 native tree species, belonging to 612 genera and 128 families. Fabaceae is the most represented family and Quercus the most represented genus. Approximately 44% of tree species are endemic to the country. The southern part of the country showed the highest values of species richness. Six hundred and seventy-four species have at least one documented human use. In terms of conservation assessment, ca. 33% of species have been assessed by either the IUCN Red List (919) or the National protection catalogue “NORMA Oficial Mexicana NOM-059” (29) or both (45). Additionally, 98 species have been included in the CITES listing for protection. In terms of existing conservation efforts, 19% of species have ex situ protection in seed banks, while protected areas overlap with all the identified peaks of species richness, except for those in the states of Veracruz and Chiapas. This work constitutes a key milestone for the knowledge, management, and conservation of the Mexican native trees. The two areas with high density of tree species identified in Veracruz and Chiapas represent two priority areas for tree conservation in Mexico, where integrated in situ and ex situ conservation efforts should be focused.