Location and Values: The Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Valley: Originary Habitat of Mesoamerica is located in central Mexico, straddling the border between the states of Puebla and Oaxaca. It is the most biologically diverse arid region in North America, and has served as one of the world’s ancient ‘cradles of civilisation’. In terms of biodiversity, the area supports representatives of a remarkable 70% of the world’s plant families, and is one of the main centres of diversification for cacti, a globally threatened plant family. ‘Forests’ of densely-packed columnar cacti are a prominent feature in some areas, while other plant groups typical of arid and semi-arid habitats – such as agaves, yuccas and bromeliads – exhibit a remarkable diversity of species. Ten percent of the 3,000 vascular plants are thought to be endemic to the Valley. The area’s fauna is less diverse, reflecting the dryland conditions, but includes 134 species of mammals and 353 species of birds (including a breeding colony of the threatened Green Macaw), with several endemic species.
From a cultural perspective, this ‘mixed’ site reveals archaeological evidence of human adaptation and development spanning more than 12,000 years. In particular, life under these arid conditions resulted in two of humanity’s major innovations, notably (1) the domestication of plants such as maize and (2) the development of water management technologies such as canals, wells, aqueducts, terraces and dams.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s 2018 evaluation of the nomination for this new world heritage site, the level of threats to its conservation is relatively low. The IUCN report notes that the human population density is low and people are tending to move out of the area, thereby reducing the pressure on natural resources. Nevertheless, there are some ongoing concerns, including illegal trafficking of cacti, extraction of agave plants and firewood, hunting, overgrazing, forest encroachment and secondary impacts associated with roads. Tourism is still at a very early stage of development, so its’ possible impacts have not yet become apparent.
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