Written by Jon Wunderlich.

Pantanos de Centla is a terrestrial ecoregion in the Mexican state of Tabasco. Being mostly composed of wetlands, this region is one of the most important hydrological watersheds of Mesoamerica. The region is made up of three basins, the Usumacinta river basin, the Laguna De Terminos, and the Grijalva river basin (Vanega 2003). Protected flora resides here such as the red mangrove and mahogany. This ecoregion is home to the endemic Mexican gar fish and contains endangered species such as the jaguar, West Indian manatee, and the Central American river turtle (Vanega 2003 ; WWF 2001).

Mangroves along the Cometa Lagoon within the reserve, (Photo obtained from http://www.parkswatch.org; Photographer Juan C. Bravo)

The protected and endemic organisms residing in the Pantanos de Centla is not the only important factor to consider. The region is made up mostly of wetlands and mangroves (WWF 2001), which serve as wildlife habitats and directly impact local human health. Wetlands assist greatly in many functions beneficial to humanity including flood control, groundwater recharge, nutrient removal, and toxics retention (Turner 2000 ; Barbier 1993). This ecoregion is threatened mainly because of the soil is among the most productive in all of Mexico (WWF 2001), which has resulted in a great deal of habitat loss due to human developments and continues to threaten this habitat today.

Threats to this Ecoregion include:

  • The Reserves Zoning and Settlements - local legislation allows for natural resource use and communities to exist within protected areas
  • Pollution - the 31 oil wells and local communities also contaminate the region
  • Poaching and unregulated fishing
  • Habitat destruction for agriculture or pasture use (Vanega 2003)

With the Pantanos de Centla biosphere being considered critically threatened, new and effective solutions to the above mentioned threats are needed to protect this ecoregion as well as the ecological and human benefits it provides. In conclusion we need to understand that the marginal benefits of conserving these natural wetlands greatly outweigh artificial alternatives.

Want to Learn More?

Barbier, E. 1993. Sustainable use of wetlands valuing tropical wetland benefits: economic methodologies and applications. The Geographical Journal 159: 22-32.

Turner, R. K., J. C. J. M. van den Bergh, A. Barendregt, E. Maltby. 2000. Ecological-economic analysis of wetlands: scientific integration for management and policy. Ecological Economics 35: 7-23.

Vanega, A. 2003. Park profile: mexico pantanos de centla biosphere reserve. Parks Watch, Durham, North Carolina. Available from http://www.parkswatch.org/parkprofiles/pdf/pcbr_eng.pdf (accessed October 2009).

WWF (World Wildlife Fund). 2001. Pantanos de centla. WWF, Washington, D.C. Available from http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/nt/nt0148_full.html (accessed October 2009).

Contreras-Espinosa, F., B. G. Warner. 2004. Ecosystem characteristics and management considerations for coastal wetlands in Mexico. Hydrobiologia 511: 233-245.

Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World

Freshwater Ecoregions of the World

Marine Ecoregions of the World

This page was created from an environmental education writing project generated in the Fall 2009 Bio245 Conservation Biology class. Content does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gustavus Adolphus College.