Tulum: Richness of Nature

Tulum is a very special corner of the Earth and world capital for a number of topics.

1. Tulum is the capital of the Mesoamerican Reef

The Global 200 is the list of ecoregions identified by WWF, the conservation organization, as priorities for global conservation. According to WWF, an ecoregion is defined as a "relatively large unit of land or water containing a characteristic set of natural communities that share a large majority of their species dynamics, and environmental conditions". The WWF has identified 867 terrestrial ecoregions across the Earth's land surface, as well as freshwater and marine ecoregions. The goal of this classification system is to ensure that the full range of ecosystems will be represented in regional conservation and development strategies. Of these ecoregions, the WWF selected the Global 200 as the ecoregions most crucial to the conservation of global biodiversity. The Global 200 list actually contains 238 ecoregions, made up of 142 terrestrial, 53 freshwater, and 43 marine ecoregions.

The  Mesoamerican Reef is one of those 200 ecoregions most crucial to the conservation of global biodiversity. It is shared by four countries as it starts north of Cancun and ends in the Bay Islands in Honduras an ecosystem of global relevance. It is 1000 Km long it is the second largest in the world after the Great Barrier in Australia. It is not only a source for countless marine resources and ecological services, it is also the life support system for the region. Quite simply, if the Mesoamerican Reef is not healthy and thriving, the region and its millions of people will not be healthy or thriving either.

On June 5, 1997, World Environment Day, in the ancient Mayan City of Tulum Quintana Roo, Mexico, the Presidents of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and the Prime Minister of Belize signed an agreement known as the Tulum Declaration. This agreement promoted the conservation of the reef system through its sustainable use, the establishment of links of joint work between authorities and promoted the development of cooperation programs and projects, setting a historical precedent in conservation matters. So Tulum is the capital of the Mesoamerican Reef.

2. Tulum is the capital for Cenotes and underground rivers in the world

Beautiful natural water pools, the so famous Cenotes are sinkholes or collapses of the limestone bed-rock that opens up to a mysterious realm and direct access to fresh water. Cenotes were sacred for the ancient Mayas, not just because they are the sole source of freshwater but also as gates to the underworld. Mayas practiced offerings and sacrifices at the cenotes asking to their gods for blessings and abundance of nature to thrive. SInce the 1980's cave divers have been exploring the cenotes, traveling in zero gravity through  tunnels and passages with the most amazing rock formations. Cenotes are interconnected by a system of water veins that goes from the far inland jungle to the Caribbean Sea creating the loop of a water cycle. As the clouds form from the evaporation of the surface of the ocean, the rain sips in to the limestone and travel through caves and cenotes back to the sea. Up to date the longest underwater cave system of the world are Sac Actun System with 362, 322 Km and Ox Bel Ha System 271, 026 Km both in Tulum. It is incredible that we are in the 21st Century and we know bettel the surface of the moon the underground realm on Earth. With more than 2000 cenotes the cave divers have explored a total of 1,505  kilometers of underwater tunnels, there is no other place in the world like that. It is comparable to natural wonders like Mount Everest or the Amazon River. We all but specially hotels need to take care of this precious water by investing in waste water treatment plants to give back clean water to the coral reef!

3. Tulum and its Natural Protected Areas: Heritage of the Mayan Forest

After the Amazon, Mesoamerica’s 140, 000 square kilometers  Mayan Forest is the largest remaining tropical rainforest in the Americas. Stretching across Belize, northern Guatemala and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the Maya Forest provides refuge for endangered species like jaguar and puma and other two smaller cats, two species of deer,  white lipped peccary, tapir, harpy eagle spider and howler monkey.

The forest is also home to  Mayan communities. Many continue to practice traditional farming techniques and steward the forest as they have for generations. However, pressures on the Maya Forest are greater than ever before. Specially for the Tulum area where the land use change to urban expansion is drived by real estate speculation. Tulum's jungle is key for the connectivity for jaguar populations between natural protected areas like theSian Kaan Biosphere Reserve,  Tulum National Park, Marine Turtle Sanctuary  Xcacel-Xcacelito and other areas to the north and south.

4. Sian Kaan and the Mangrove fields World Heritage

Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Meaning where the sky is born in mayan language and with 528, 148 hectares is a complex con protected areas marine and terrestrial with up to nine different ecosystems. About a third of Sian Kaan is comprised of highly diverse and productive mangrove communities, of vital importance to fisheries in the broader region. Hundreds of forested islands, locally known as "Petenes", emerge from the flooded marshes, some reaching over a kilometre in diameter. Especially the marshes and mangrove fields are remarkable carbon sinks that also harbors up to 400 species of birds, and in peak winter migratory months, as many as several million avian visitors that come to mate and give birth. Great for bird watching and ecotourism.

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