Location and Values: The Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul are located in the southern part of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, along the border with Guatemala. The area lies at the core of the vast Central American tropical forest (the ‘Maya Forest’), a major biodiversity hotspot. In ancient times it was heavily settled and served as a major centre of Mayan civilization for about 11 centuries until its downfall around A.D. 1000. The spectacular archaeological remains of the city of Calakmul, embedded deep in the jungle, provide evidence of the sophisticated culture of this era. Meanwhile the forests that have grown up since the abandonment of the city and surrounding lands exhibit characteristics of an evolving semi-natural ecosystem that continues to bear the hallmarks of its previous occupation.
Conservation Status and Prospects: According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Ancient Maya City and Protected Tropical Forests of Calakmul, Campeche is ‘of significant concern’. The IUCN report expresses concern about uncontrolled use of natural resources as well as questions over zonation and boundary design; and a lack of boundary demarcation. Climate change is expected to result in a higher incidence of fire and hurricanes, with correspondingly increased impact on forest ecology. On a more positive note Calakmul benefits from its relatively central position within the larger Maya Forest and the status of various large protected areas surrounding the world heritage site, including adjacent protected areas in Guatemala. However this de facto ‘buffer zone’ is suffering forest loss and degradation, including forest fires, illegal logging and longstanding infrastructure plans which will have long-term consequences for biodiversity conservation and landscape connectivity. The overall impact of tourism development is likely to be positive, but will require careful planning and management of infrastructure, access roads, water and waste management.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description