The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica

A regional initiative for climate, biodiversity and peoples

Mesoamerica is a biodiversity hotspot. With only 0.5 percent of the world's land area, the region is home to 7% percent of the world's biological diversity, including rare and endangered species. Forests such as the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica contain more than six times the carbon of the most degraded forests and hold approximately half of the region's forest carbon stocks. They also provide essential ecosystem services to five million people.

The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica are: Selva Maya in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize; La Moskitia in Nicaragua and Honduras; Indio Maíz-Tortuguero in Nicaragua and Costa Rica; La Amistad in Costa Rica and Panama; and El Darién in Panama and Colombia.

Climate change has varied impacts across geographical regions, but it also impacts people differently based on their socio-cultural context. Women and men, Indigenous Peoples and non-indigenous people are likely to experience climate change differently, with common gender and ethnic-based inequalities pervading and persisting around the world.

Mesoamerica's most vulnerable populations to climate change, Indigenous Peoples and local forest communities, manage and protect half of the remaining forested area in the five forests, relying on their resources for food security, income, cultural identity, and more. Where the conditions are right, this relationship is mutually beneficial. Forests managed by indigenous peoples with secure land tenure have much lower deforestation rates than forests outside indigenous lands. 

The 5 Great Forests Alliance, which includes government, NGO, academia, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities partners, has announced its commitment to protect the 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica — the last remaining forests from Mexico to Colombia critical for wildlife, carbon sequestration, clean water, and food security to five million people.

Location reference map of The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica by Marco Martínez (WCS)

Location reference map of The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica © Google Earth


February 16, 2024

Bird banding: a technique to understand the ecology of birds, identify their migratory routes and improve conservation strategies.

The “Joint NABC Bird Banding Certification and Bird Genoscape Project Workshop with an introduction to Motus” was held with the participation of more than 25 bird specialists from Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain and the United States of America. Spanish, English and Creole were heard, but everyone comes together for a common cause: understanding the ecology of birds through their complete annual biological cycle and identifying migratory routes, in order to improve conservation strategies. 


February 11, 2024

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we highlight the work of Anna, Francis, Sofía, and Yamira from the Mesoamerica and Caribbean program of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Their sensitivity and passion exemplify a commitment to nature, communities, and wildlife. At WCS, we take pride in having a strong team of women in the field of science. Get to know them!

February 5, 2024

Tribute to Archie “Chuck” Carr III

Chuck Carr, or “Don Chuck” as he was known throughout Mesoamerica, passed away January 21, 2024, and WCS lost one of the founding members of its conservation programs. He was such a special person who took his work seriously, and who dedicated his entire life to making this planet a better place for wildlife and humanity.

December 28, 2023

Case studies: The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica

The 5 Great Forests of Mesoamerica serve as the world's green lungs, playing a critical role in carbon capture and climate stability. This initiative showcases that collaborative and sustainable investment can serve as catalysts for conserving natural resources and stimulating economic growth. These experiences and stakeholders provide us with valuable lessons, serving as role models in our pursuit of a sustainable and equitable future for our planet.

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