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Cloud Forest Ecosystem, Veracruz, Mexico

Green jay - American Forests Magazine Autumn 2012

Green jay. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The state of Veracruz, located on the gulf side of Mexico, is known for the large number of birds that migrate to the area. An astonishing 67 percent of the 341 migratory species registered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pass through or winter in Veracruz. Many of these birds find homes in the Veracruz cloud forest during their migration. The forest is known for being the most biodiverse in Mexico. It is considered an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and a national priority terrestrial and hydrological region. However, it is also one of the most vulnerable regions, which is one reason why American Forests is helping restoration projects in the area. Today, only 10 percent of the forest remains as a result of fragmentation from urbanization, subsistence agriculture and cattle ranching. Tree-planting and forest-restoration efforts in the forest are essential to the survival of the many North American bird species that travel to and through Veracruz every year.

Since 2010, American Forest has supported the efforts of Pronatura Veracruz, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve flora, fauna and priority ecosystems in Veracruz. This year’s project with Pronatura will plant 60,000 trees in the cloud forest ecosystem in the highlands of central Veracruz. One way that this project helps conserve this threatened ecosystem is by working to enhance the adjacent coffee agro-ecosystems.

The cloud forest’s persistent, low-level cloud cover offers coffee growers a favorable climate for their crops, which puts the land in danger of agricultural development. However, when coffee farmers grow their crops under the appropriate amount of shade trees, a win-win situation for farmers and birds results: Farmers command a better price for their coffee, and migratory birds have a place to winter. Pronatura Veracruz strategically selects coffee-growing parcels to receive native, cloud-forest trees that will create biological corridors between fragmented patches of cloud forest. The organization works with regional coffee councils to market their coffee by promoting the restored areas and private reserves as “cloud forest-friendly” coffee plantations.

Another key component of this American Forests Global ReLeaf project is environmental education. Pronatura Veracruz trains coffee producers how to reforest their farms and runs workshops on how to obtain financing for the environmental services the cloud forest and other biodiverse lands in Veracruz provide.

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