Mainstreaming the Conservation of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity at the Sub-watershed Scale in Chiapas, Mexico

Alessandra Score
Posted on: 12/15/2010 - Updated on: 1/19/2024

Posted by

Alex Score

Project Summary

The Sierra-Costa region of Chiapas, Mexico is home to many threatened and endangered species, endemic species of salamanders and butterflies, and a nationally important bird area with hundreds of avian species. The region also supports the largest mangrove forests in Mexico, which serve as critical breeding and foraging habitats for birds and numerous fish species. The coastal area is also a critical corridor for many migratory dolphins and whale sharks. This project is intended to integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into land use planning considerations in the Sierra-Costa region to support the protection, restoration, and conservation of critical ecosystem functions and habitats, even in a changing climate. The project will develop and pilot tools, methodologies, and protocols that watershed committees and other practitioners in the region can use to integrate environmentally-friendly practices into land use planning and management activities at a watershed scale.


In the Sierra-Costa region of Chiapas, stretching from the Sierra Madre de Chiapas mountain range to the Pacific Coast, land use change, planning, and management have major implications for the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. The relationships between land use systems and practices and biodiversity conservation and ecosystem service provisioning are particularly evident. Land use practices/threats include coffee production and cattle grazing, deforestation and wood harvesting, improper use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals, uncontrolled fires, and unsustainable hunting and collecting of animals and plants. Challenges in the region include lack of awareness of natural resources management and benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the region; this project was initiated in order to integrate such knowledge into land use planning that emphasizes environmentally friendly practices. It is also intended to increase the understanding of the growing interactions of climate change impacts and land use practices.

The project started in December 2010 and is in its initial phases. The Global Environmental Facility awarded $1.4 million and an additional $4.8 million is being co-financed by the state and federal governments and Conservation International (implementing partner).


The project will increase understanding of relationships between land uses and environmental service provisioning in the Sierra-Costa region. Pilot tools, methodologies, and protocols will be developed that micro-watershed councils and other organizations in the region can use to integrate this type of information and thinking into environmental decision-making and land management activities.Targeting ten sub-watersheds in the region, the project has three main components:

  1. Development of the knowledge base among stakeholders at the sub-watershed scale of the interactions between ecosystem services and land uses;
  2. Mainstreaming ecosystem services and biodiversity into land use policies, planning, and promotion by land users and decision makers; and
  3. Increasing access by land users to public and private payment for ecosystem services mechanisms (e.g., carbon, watershed services, biodiversity) to provide funding and incentives for implementation of land use practices and strategies that both conserve ecosystem services and biodiversity and improve local livelihoods.

Outcomes and Conclusions

Metrics have been identified from which to measure project successes, including the assessment of:

  • Outputs delivered – quality, quantity, usefulness, and timeliness of methods, tools, and protocols; research and publications; training programs; and pilot restoration activities;
  • Methods applied; and
  • Scientific and political credibility of project outputs.

This project is expected to provide micro-watershed councils and associated institutions with the knowledge and tools necessary to (1) take ecosystem services into account in land management decision making and (2) to increase access to incentive mechanisms for land uses that conserve ecosystem services, both through government and private sector-funded payment mechanisms. The ecosystem conservation reward mechanisms and micro-watershed management framework promoted and strengthened by the project will be of general enough applicability to be widely scaled up throughout Mexico and into other countries.


Score, A. (2010). Mainstreaming the Conservation of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity at the Sub-watershed Scale in Chiapas, Mexico [Case study on a project of the United Nations Environment Programme and Conservation International]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

Affiliated Organizations

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.

Conservation International (CI) works to ensure a healthy and productive planet for us all.

Yet economic and infrastructure development, which are so necessary for human well-being, can also have serious impacts on nature. That is why CI is working at every level – from remote villages to the offices of presidents and premiers – to help move whole societies toward a smarter development path.