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Biomes of Guatemala

Biomes of Guatemala

The classification of each biome listed below relates exclusively to Guatemala. They were detailed by Villar-Anleu (1998) as distinct biogeography entities where several ecosystems may be present, have different structural and functional relations and are also related with characteristics of the flora (Villar-Anleu 1998).

Accordingly, we describe the seven biomes that you will find in Guatemala, all of them based on the work of Lic. Luis Villar Anleu (1998).

1. Tropical Humid Forest (THF):

Is defined by a very hot and humid climate, with altitudes below 2,953 feet above sea level.There is no clear difference between rainy and dry seasons, although it is assumed that the dry season occurs between November and June.

You will find this biome in the Petén region, characterized by its plain land, poor soils but exuberant jungles, and a very diverse fauna. Several types of vegetation are present in this biome, such as high and low altitude forest, savanna, and wetland systems.

The dominant vegetation type is broad-leafed trees, but there is also pine (Pinus caribbea). Some birds to observe in this biome are: Ocellated Turkey, Yucatan Flycatcher, White-browed Wren, Black-throated Shrike-tanager, and Rose-throated Tanager.

2.Tropical Rain Forest (TRF):

This biome has higher levels of rain and atmospheric humidity than Tropical Humid Forest. Vegetation is complex, since some influence of South American vegetation can be observed.

With an altitudinal range from sea level to 4265 feet above sea level, climate is warm and humid, the dry season is not well defined, but you can expect rains between June and October. There are several ecosystems, including evergreen forest, savannas, open pastures, mangrove and estuaries. The dominant vegetation is broad-Leafed trees and some pine (Pinus caribbea and P. oocarpa).

Some birds in this biome are: Orange-breasted falcon, White crowned Pigeon, White-collared Manakin, Snowy Cotinga, Gray-headed Tanager, Olive-backed Euphonia, Golden-winged warbler, and Green-backed Sparrow.

3. Chaparral or Thorn Dry Scrub (TDF):

The vegetation is typical of arid zones, with abundant cactus and thorn plants, generally deciduous (the loss of leaves during the dry season). This biome is located between 328 and 3,280 feet above sea level, with a short but very well-marked rainy season between the months of June and October. This is one of the most fragile biomes in the country, poorly represented in the Guatemalan Protected Areas System (SIGAP).

It has a discontinuous distribution through the central eastern region, in valleys surrounded by mountains that generate this phenomenon known as rain shadow, which as a consequence generates dry zones. Some representative birds are: Lesser Ground-cuckoo, Orange fronted Parakeet, Russet-crowned Motmot, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Cinnamon Hummingbird, White-lored Gnatcatcher, and Altamira Oriole.

4. Cloud Forest (CF):

It is located on mountain slopes between 3,600 and 9,514 feet above sea level and has a great complexity in its flora composition. This habitat presents a wide biodiversity and associated vegetation (avocados, pine, oaks, and tree ferns) in the undergrowth are a variety of plants and mosses located in different strata that creates a high complexity, as well as in the canopy you can observe a wide diversity of epiphytes.

The climate is temperate and humid during the day but the nights can be somewhat cold. The high of rain, occurring generally between the months of April and September, is characteristic of this biome. Some birds of this biome are: Horned Guan, Highland Guan, Resplendent Quetzal, Belted Flycatcher, and Pink Headed Warbler.

5. Mountain Forest (MF):

In this biome the influence of the North American region is evident in its biodiversity. There are few species, with only one stratum differentiated and very poor forest understory. However, several endemic plants and fauna can be found in this biome, which occupies all the central highlands of Guatemala between altitudinal ranges of 6,560 to 13,780 feet above sea level. Climate is usually cold, seasonally related with northern latitudes.

Some of the birds that you can observe here are: White-breasted Hawk, Golden- cheeked Warbler, Goldman’s Warbler, Pine Siskin, and Guatemalan junco.

6. Tropical Humid Savannah (THS):

It is found along the Pacific Coast, from sea. Level to nearly 2,900 feet above sea level. Weather is predominantly warm; the original vegetation (deciduous forest, evergreen forest.

savannas, and mangroves) has been transformed and replaced by agricultural landscapes, although in some areas there are still remnants of the original vegetation, and several rivers going down the volcanic chain towards the sea. Some of the most exciting birds that you can see in this area are: Common Black-Hawk, White-bellied Chachalaca, Pacific Parakeet, Violet Sabrewing, and Long-tailed Manakin.

7. Subtropical Humid Forest (SHFt):

Found in the Pacific region known in Guatemala as “Boca Costa”, runs through slopes of the volcanic chain, between 2,600 to 3,900 feet above sea level. There is diverse vegetation and a moderate warm temperature; the volcanic chain serves as a wind barrier for the humid winds that come from the south, so, this biome is nevertheless an unusually rainy place. Some birds of this biome are: Red-throated Parakeet, Blue-tailed hummingbird, Azure-rumped Tanager and Prevost’s Ground Sparrow.