Climate change and protected area management

Project description

Title: Climate change and protected area management
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Country: Mexico
Partner organisation: National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP)
Overall term: 2011 to 2015

Mexico. Workshop with local people © GIZ


Climate change poses a growing threat to Mexico’s natural protected areas. Ecosystems and rural communities are equally at risk. In 2010, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) developed a strategy to counteract this development. Natural protected areas are to help ecosystems and communities cope better with the challenges associated with climate change. At the same time, the strategy contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and through well-managed forests and wetlands – to improving the carbon storage capacity of the protected areas.

The mountainous Sierra Madre Oriental region, a biodiversity hotspot, was selected as a priority protected zone. The region encompasses six states, currently with four federal protected areas. Additional state-level and private protected areas are planned.


The biodiversity of the central region of the Sierra Madre Oriental is conserved. The mitigation and adaptation capacity of the ecosystems as well as the communities in the natural protected areas is increased.


GIZ is supporting the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP) with improving its management plans in order to enhance the function of protected areas as carbon sinks and to increase their adaptability to climate change.

As many representatives as possible from civil society, the government and businesses are to participate in the activities. These include fire management, establishing a climate and biodiversity monitoring system, implementing adaptation and mitigation activities, and related training activities. Strategies and lessons learned are to be rolled out in other regions across the country.

One of the project’s main activities is to conduct a multi-level vulnerability analysis on dangers posed to the Sierra Madre Oriental by climate change. The analysis will clarify the connections between people’s livelihoods and ecosystem services, for example the provision of clean water, food or other resources. This will enable prognoses to be made about the socio-economic and ecological impacts of climate change, and measures to be devised with a view to maintaining ecosystem services and improving people’s living conditions.

Results achieved so far

The management plans for the protected areas in the project region have been improved. The guidelines of the partner organisation on the creation of management plans were updated accordingly. Across Mexico, it is now standard practice for aspects of climate change to be taken into account in new or revised protected area management plans.

In March 2013, the programme for climate change adaptation for the Sierra Madre Oriental project region was completed. The strategy of the partner organisation applies to a region covering approximately 2.1 million hectares extending across five federal states and four large water catchments that feed into the Gulf of Mexico.

In order to identify mitigation and adaptation measures, a methodology was developed for conducting local vulnerability analyses. Attention is paid above all to the lifestyles and economic activities of local people as well as their connections to ecological processes both within and outside of the protected areas.

A number of pilot activities have been implemented:

  • Restoration of forest ecosystems in the Cuenca del Río Necaxa protected area; agroforestry systems in combination with reintroduction of native tree species on selected parcels of land serve as a model to other communities
  • Strengthening of sustainable activities by collectives in the Sierra del Abra Tanchipa biosphere reserve
  • Identification of measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the La Plazuela and Agua Fría communities in the semi-arid part of the Sierra Gorda biosphere reserve.

Automatic weather stations (AWS) were installed in the project region. Responsibility for their management and maintenance was transferred to the national weather service. Since 2013, the meteorological data has been available to the administrators of the protected areas. The AWSs enhance the climate components in the Sierra Madre Oriental as well as the CONANP initiative for climate monitoring in protected areas. By the end of 2013, the Commission had used its own funds to install an additional 53 AWSs across the country.

Thirteen mobile weather stations were also installed in 2013 in the five Sierra Madre Oriental protected areas in order to collect data on the different microclimates. Protected area managers, researchers and representatives of local communities received training on using and maintaining the weather stations.

Local fire departments in the natural protected areas of the Sierra Madre Oriental received support. Fire-fighting tools were procured along with personal protective gear, quads and stationary as well as mobile radio equipment. Individual training was provided to the brigades in accordance with the Mexican Government’s official fire-fighting certification. Support was given to twelve brigades with 120 members each in four of the seven protected zones. The fire-fighters live in the forested areas of the mountain region and also carry out preventive measures, such as the construction of firebreaks.

Mexico has positioned itself internationally as a pioneer with regard to protected areas and climate change. All of the programme’s results and lessons learned will be used in the new climate strategy of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (2014-2018).

Additional information