State strategy for Cycad (Zamiaceae) conservation: A proposal for the State of Hidalgo, Mexico
Mexico has the second largest cycad diversity in the world, and the Sierra Madre Oriental (SMO) is one of the richest biogeographic regions for these plants. Despite there is a general Cycad National Program in the country, there are no state-level cycad conservation strategies or programs. Thus the aim of this study was to propose a cycad conservation strategy for the state of Hidalgo, which is located in the Southern part of the SMO. For this, a cycad species inventory was made in the state, for which three methods were used: review of published literature; consultation in the main Mexican herbaria to verify botanical specimens; and exhaustive field research to compare findings with previously reported species and to recognize new records at the county and state level. The proposed research work strategy combined the following elements: prioritize the county and local areas with greatest cycad species richness; prioritize the species least resistant to environmental change and/or having restricted geographic distribution; and to consider the main uses of these plants by local residents. The results showed that Hidalgo has three genera and eight species of cycads: Ceratozamia fuscoviridis, C. latifolia, C. mexicana, C. sabatoi, Dioon edule, Zamia fischeri, Z. loddigesii and Z. vazquezii, all of which are considered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This study added two new species records for Hidalgo and 21 at the county level. The species are distributed in 26 counties, of which Chapulhuacán and Pisaflores are notable for their high species richness. Hidalgo has the fourth-greatest cycad species richness among Mexican states, although its area accounts for only 1.07% of the country. The state’s diversity is greater than in other states with larger area, and even than in some other entire countries in Mesoamerica. The presented state cycad conservation strategy proposes that a total of some 11 325ha to be conserved in nine zones, including different vegetation types, distributed in seven counties. The strategy involves a mixed scheme that incorporates conservation in Protected Natural Areas (ANP), Small Farmer Reserves (Reservas Campesinas) and Environmental Management Units (UMA in Spanish). This proposal will be useful for government agencies to take into account in the process of designating land use for the Cloud Forest Biological Corridor (CBBMM in Spanish), a ANP in creation. The state of Hidalgo urgently needs a detailed analysis of trends in changes in vegetation cover and land use, and demographic studies of the cycads. It is recommended that the implementation phase of this state strategy be carried out jointly with local communities, academia, and state and federal agencies responsible for biodiversity conservation.