Los Tuxtlas field station

Instituto de Biología

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México




Location of the region of Los Tuxtlas in the southern portion of the state of Veracruz in Mexico. The map shows the original distribution of tropical rain forests in Mexico. Such distribution has changed dramatically in the last six decades as a result of human activity (see below), stressing the need to further investigate and preserve remnant tropical rain forests. The field station Los Tuxtlas of UNAM is an outstanding effort in this direction.

Deforestation of tropical rain forests in Mexico and Central America has been a vast process that, as the map to the right shows, has changed tropical landscapes. Human activity has resulted in the replacement of tropical rain forest vegetation by pastures mainly along with other types of agricultural fields. Such activity has also resulted in fragmentation and isolation of remnant forests. The region of Los Tuxtlas has not escaped such process as the 2001 satellite image to the right shows. The dark gray areas is the native vegetation remaining, about 10-15% of the original 2,500 square km of rain forest that once covered the entire region. Light gray areas in the image are pastures. Dark areas indicate water: the Gulf of Mexico and major lakes (Lake Catemaco inland and Lake Sontecomapan, a coastal lagoon)

The field station "Los Tuxtlas" is located 35 km noreast of the town of Catemaco (the large lake in the photo) and about 5.0 km from the Gulf of México coast. The land of the field station is an integral part of Biosphere Reserve Los Tuxtlas, located in southern Veracruz as shown in the map to the right (for general information on the biosphere reserve, go to http://www.parkswatch.org/parkprofile.php?l=eng&country=mex&park=ltbr )

The field station has 700 ha (1400 acres) of forested land. This land is connected to about 14000 ha of rain forest extending west toward the Volcano of San Martín Tuxtla.


To support high quality long-term scientific research in the humid tropics as well as the training of university students in the fields of tropical biology and ecology, the Instituto de Biología of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México has built a magnificent infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure includes two dormitories, two laboratories, a dinning room, a building that houses a specifalized library of books and journals, a herbarioum and scientific collections of insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds.The field station has computer facilities and access to Internet services.

Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas"

Instituto de Biología

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Building housing the library and scientific collections

Scientific collections

Herbarium specimen



Dinning room and other support services




As part of the infrastructure present at the field station Los Tuxtlas, the primate laboratory houses computer facilities, our data banks, other scientifc equipment, a specialized library of books and reprints on primate studies, and storage for biological samples.

The lab also provides working space for students and scientists that collaborate with us, and access to Internet is a recent addition. The lab is surrounded by rainforest and it is quite common for howlers and, sometimes, spider monkeys and other forest wildlife, to "hang around" the lab.

The tropical rain forest in the land of the Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas" is a living laboratory where inventories of the flora and fauna are still being carried out. Projects range from studies of systematics and taxonomy of plants and animals, community structure and composition, autoecology of particular species, to investigations on various aspects of the dynamics of the ecosystems such as primary productivity, nutrient flow and the process of forest regeneration among other topics.

The region of Los Tuxtlas harbors the northernmost representation of the Amazon rain forest in the American continent. The abrupt topography of the region has favoured the establishment of a great diversity of plant and animal species.

The floristic diversity of Los Tuxtlas stands out together with that of other localities in the Neotropics. For example, note the values of the diversity index (H´) for the flora of Los Tuxtlas and other localities in southern Mexico and in Southamerica: .LOS TUXTLAS H´= 3.85, PALENQUE, CHIAPAS, MEXICO H´= 3.76, BONAMPAK, CHIAPAS, MEXICO H´= 4.38, VENCEREMOS, PERU H= 6.65, SACRAMENTO, BOLIVIA H´= 4.89, FINCA MERENBERG, COLOMBIA H´= 4.46.


Diversity of vertebrates in the región of Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, Mexico, and comparison with other Neotropical forests.





Amphibians and Reptiles



Los Tuxtlas






Panamá: (Isla Barro Colorado)






Costa Rica: (La Selva)






The continued and combined efforts of researchers, professors and students since the creation of the Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas" en 1967, has resulted in the formation of a strategic bank of scientific inrformation about the tropical rain forest ecosystem that is unique in the world. The Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas" is one of a handfull of research centers in the world where data are being gathered in an orderly fashion and on a long-term basis on tropical rain forest ecosystems.

Such efforts and the quality of the research conducted at the field station "Los Tuxtlas", evidenced in numerous scientific publications, a result many research projects conducted at the site, constitute an important beach head in the task of inventorying, investigating and preserving tropical biodiversity.


The existence of the Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas" of UNAM has been pivotal in the development of our research with the three wild primates in Mexico from the start. The logistical and operational support provided by the field station has allowed us to develop colateral projects in localities south of Los Tuxtlas in the states of Tabasco , Campeche and Chiapas.

For further information regarding the research programs under development at the Estación de Biología "Los Tuxtlas" please write to: Jefe de la Estación tuxtlas@ibiologia.unam.mx The field station's web site can be access by activating this link: www.ibiologia.unam.mx

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Preserve the tropical rain forests of southern Mexico


Copyright @ 2006 Alejandro Estrada