Desert Blooms, Hummingbirds, and Bats
The Tehuacán Valley Matorral is an ecological island of extraordinary diversity. It is rich in species of plants restricted to just this valley. Stretching through southeast Puebla and northwestern Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, this is a desert/xeric scrub basin in a landscape of pine-oak, dry, and moist forests. Flowering cacti and flashy hummingbirds splash color across the landscape. There is a remarkable variety of bats here, which may be due to the nearby moist and cloud forests of Veracruz and Oaxaca, and the Balsa tropical dry forests.
The semi-dry, hot climate, with summer rains and slight temperature variation, supports over 2,700 plant species, of which 30 percent are endemic. Centers of diversity for the genera Hechtia and Salvia are in the Tehuacán Valley, and four genera of seed plants are known to be endemic: Gypsacanthus, Oaxacania, Pringleochloa, and Solisia. At least 50 species of sunflowers are endemic, and 55 percent of all the species of columnar cacti in Mexico grow in this valley, 30 percent of which are endemic. There are more species of Agave here than any other arid ecosystem in Mexico.
A visitor to this ecoregion will be treated to a great variety of bird life. Lucifer hummingbirds dart among flowers seeking nectar and insects. Songs of the bridled sparrow and ocellated thrasher fill the air. Over 90 bird species have been recorded here, many of them spreading the seeds of columnar cacti and other plants. Dozens of species of bats, such as the evening bat, northern yellow bat, and the wrinkle-faced bat, fill the night skies. About a third of these bat species are endangered, vulnerable, or rare.
Cause for Concern
Agricultural and urban expansion cause habitats to be lost and fragmented. Grazing is widespread and intense, heavily impacting fragile desert vegetation and riparian habitats. Illegal extraction and trade of exotic plant species have led many cacti to be given endangered status.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001