Location and Values: Sian Ka’an lies on the eastern shores of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, about 100 km south of the resort town of Cancun. It covers a complex mosaic of wetlands, marshes, mangroves, and tropical forests, along a diverse coastline with offshore coral reefs and seagrass beds. The area features some unusual natural phenomena, including hundreds of forested islands (so-called ‘Petenes’) emerging from the grassy marshlands, and deep natural sinkholes (known as ‘cenotes’) in the underlying limestone rock, filled with crystal-clear freshwater and hosting specialized communities of life (including many endemic species). The marine portion of the site covers part of the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef and supports at least 80 species of corals and more than 400 species of fish as well as four species of turtle and a small population of West Indian manatees. Meanwhile the terrestrial habitats support at least 100 species of mammals and 330 species of birds, including rare and endangered species such as jaguar, puma, tapir, black-handed spider monkey and Yucatan black howler monkey.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of Sian Ka’an is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that ‘out of the large number of current threats coastal development, mostly related to tourism, stands out as a major concern with multiple direct and indirect impacts on land and in the sea, including pressure on species, disturbance,
depletion of freshwater and sewage and waste. There are clear indications that the marine and coastal environments may be severely affected by climate change with its expected sea level rise and the effects of anticipated temperature increases and related ocean acidification on reefs and other marine ecosystems. ’
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description