The Sierra Gorda Biosphere
Reserve emerged from a presidential decree
granted on May 19, 1997 with
the purpose of protecting the Reserves exceptional richness of species and
ecosystems. The Reserve is managed by the National Commission of Natural Protected
Areas (CONANP) of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)
and is located in the northern part of the state of Querétaro between 20° 50´ and 21°
45´ latitude north and 98° 50´and 100° 10´ longitude west.
Five XVIII century Franciscan missions were designated as UNESCO
World Heritage sites in 2003 and are located within the beautiful natural environment of
the Sierra Gorda Biopshere Reserve which is a member of the Man and Biosphere Programme of
UNESCO since 2001.
The Biosphere Reserve covers 383,567 hectares of the state of
Querétaro, representing 32 percent of the states territory. The
Reserve contains 11 core protected areas
that cover 24,803 hectares and a
buffer zone with 358,764 hectares. The Reserve contains all of the municipalities of
Jalpan de Serra, Arroyo Seco, and Landa de Matamoros, as well as 88 percent of Pinal de
Amoles and 70 percent of Peñamiller. The Reserve has approximately 100,000 citizens
living in 638 localities.
The principal biological characteristic of the Sierra
Gorda is eco-diversity. It is unique for its large number of distinct
ecosystems with high diversity of life forms. For biodiversity, it is one of the most
richest, best-conserved and diverse sectors of the state of Querétaro, and stands out for
its level of conservation in comparison with neighboring regions and states.
Among all the natural protected areas in Mexico, the Sierra Gorda
Biosphere Reserve occupies first place for its eco-diversity due to its geographic
position at the meeting point of the Nearctic and Neotropical
bioregions. The Reserve presents great physiographic complexity, with altitudes ranging
from 300 meters above sea level in the canyon of the Santa María River in the
municipality of Jalpan de Serra to 3,100 meters above sea level at the summit of the Cerro
de la Pingüica, found in the municipality of Pinal de Amoles.
This physiological complexity, combined with a
precipitation pattern, ranging from 350 to 2,000 mm per year, generates numerous
climate variations. The strong variation in rain patterns is a result of rain shadows
created by the mountain ranges of the Sierra Gorda.
The Sierra Gorda belongs to the
Pánuco River basin
via the Santa María and Moctezuma rivers, which in turn are fed by the Escanela,
Tancuilín, Extoraz, Ayutla and Concá rivers.