Selecting relict montane cloud forests for conservation priorities: The case of Western Mexico
Montane cloud forests that occur along protected ravines have a fragmented distribution in western Mexico. These forests contain high species richness, and a number of endemic species and relict species. We identify montane cloud forests in western Mexico that deserve priority for conservation and in situ preservation. We rank the montane cloud forests based on tree species richness, the number of endemic vascular plants, the number of species with protection status, and the presence of relict tree species. We place tree species richness and floristic composition of montane cloud forests from western Mexico in a world context, comparing them with 110 forests throughout the world. Then, using Ward's dendrogram, we identify similarities in the floristic composition. Also, we determine which species in the montane cloud forests of western Mexico are protected by the Mexican Species Act, CITES, or IUCN Red List. Our results indicate that the montane cloud forest at Ojo de Agua del Cuervo in the state of Jalisco is unique in that it contains larger numbers of tree species, endemic vascular plants, and endangered plants than similar Asian forests containing ancient species. Ojo de Agua del Cuervo is floristically related at the generic level to forests in Asia, as well as those in Mexico containing Tertiary relict tree species. We propose a 56,395 ha biosphere reserve that includes Ojo de Agua del Cuervo and its surroundings. This proposed reserve would increase the number of preserved montane cloud forests, which are currently underrepresented among Mexican protected natural areas.