Only 0.5 percent of the world's land surface, Mesoamerica is home to about seven percent of the planet's biological diversity. This rich landscape historically served as a land bridge linking North and South America's fauna and flora. It's also a region where natural and cultural heritage overlap, with numerous community and indigenous protected areas, the vestiges of ancient civilizations, and a number of World Heritage sites.
Human influence has become so pervasive that in many places the landscape has been completely fragmented and even core wildlife strongholds are being rapidly deforested and degraded. Deforestation in favor of cattle ranches and oil palm plantations, forest fires, and other hazards threaten both the integrity of the region's parks and the connectivity between them.
Deeper societal issues such as drug trafficking, organized crime, the impacts of climate change, and the proposed construction of a canal across Nicaragua exacerbate the region's shared challenges to both conservation and sustainable development. Northern Central America claims the highest murder rates in the world—far surpassing even those of war-torn areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan—and systemic violence, lack of economic opportunity, and landlessness are fueling migration to frontier forest areas in Central America, as well as to the U.S.
Assess and conserve some of Mesoamerica's largest wild places and key wildlife species and inspire people to take action on their behalf.
How Will We Get There?
Our strategies include:
Generate detailed assessments of the status of threats to Mesomerica using remote sensing data and the Human Footprint methodology.
Assess the effectiveness of park management and law enforcement in each of our priority landscapes in the region and help enact improvements.
Study and contribute to more effective interventions related to fire, climate change mitigation, road building, large-scale cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, small holder agriculture, conservation of select species, and human well being.
Establish formal and privileged relationships and targeted collaborations with key universities and conservation training organizations to train and mentor young professionals who contribute to the conservation agenda in the region.
Develop standardized protocols for the precise monitoring and evaluation of jaguar, Baird's tapir, white-lipped peccary, and scarlet macaw populations over the long term.
Encourage the adoption of standardized protocols for priority landscapes in five key areas: wildlife populations, habitat integrity, management capacity and law enforcement, quality of human life, and natural resource governance.
The “Brooklyn Bridge Forest,” which calls for sustainably harvested wood to benefit local communities in Guatemala while safeguarding 200,000 acres of rainforest, is a finalist in a competition to Reimagine the Brooklyn Bridge. The public can vote...
A team of WCS scientists have documented an unusual jaguar missing most of its tail crossing the border between Belize and Guatemala – the first confirmed transboundary crossing of a jaguar between the two countries.