Ranked second globally in terms of number of ecosystem types and fourth in terms of species richness (SARUKHAN, 2009), Mexico is one of the world’s five most biologically “mega-diverse” countries (CBD, 2013). According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010, of the country’s 196.4 million hectares, 33% and around 64.8 million hectares are considered forests. Of this, primary forest comprises 53% and around 34.3 million hectares. Annual change in forest cover is reported at -0.52% from 1990-2000; -0.35% from 2000-2005; and, -0.24% from 2005-2010, suggesting a reduction in deforestation between 2000 and 2010 of 55% (FAO, 2010).
Mexico’s forests are under either federal (public), private or communal ownership. Of these, communal ownership is the most prominent, with the FAO stating that around 70% of the country’s total forest is in the hands of rural agrarian communities: either traditional indigenous communities or ejidos (FAO, 2010). However, estimates of this figure vary and it has been cited as lower than this.
The main proximate causes of deforestation and forest degradation include: 1) conversion of forestland to pasture; 2) slash-and-burn agriculture; 3) illegal logging; and, 4) natural disturbances (CONAFOR, 2010). The ultimate underlying forces include: 1) forest area use limitations; 2) a lack of investment in the forestry sector; 3) low income derived from forest activities; 4) agriculture and livestock activities in forest areas; 5) uncertainty regarding use rights; and, 6) poverty and lack of opportunities for forest owners (CONAFOR, 2010).
Mexico’s Fifth National Communication to the UNFCCC indicates that in 2010 land use, land use change and forestry represented the fourth most significant source and 6.3% of total GHG emissions (SEMARNAT, 2012). It also identifies a total of 150 mitigation projects with a total abatement potential of an estimated 130MtCO2e per year, for the period 2010-2020 (SEMARNAT, 2012). Currently, half of these projects, representing a potential reduction of 70MtCO2e per year until 2020, are underway (SEMARNAT, 2012). Mexico’s current portfolio of mitigation projects in the forestry and agricultural sectors, including REDD+ early action projects, have an emissions abatement potential of 40MtCO2e/year until 2020 (SEMARNAT, 2012).