“How beautiful the mountains of Mexico! Those peaks with perpetual snow are the most beautiful of the world; those mountain tops with majestic snow that raise among the brilliant vegetation of the tropics. Is there something more beautiful?
Alejandro de Humboldt
Mexico is a multifaceted country, pluralistic and di- verse in many aspects. e most distinctive fea- ture of the country is its enormous heterogeneity. Within our territory, we host
countless di erent landscapes, many unique cultures and contrasting social and economic levels. All of this makes us distinctive, and has shaped our character and unity as a nation while also de ning the peculiarities of our problems. Diver- sity, particularly ecological and cultural, is our most valuable feature. However, in our public policies throughout history, we have generally behaved as though this diversity did not exist, and have acted according to the vision of those responsible for shaping national policies based on personal and group interests. is has meant acting on a simplistic and limited concept of our nation, which has had an extremely negative impact on ecology and society and, as a consequence, has been detrimental to the development of the country.
The high biodiversity of Mexico is due to its complex physiography and its geological and climatic histo- ry. Mexican ora and fauna show geographic patterns which correlate to the
characteristics of the physical environment and its geological history. Volume I includes a chapter on biodiversity in the relatively recent geological past, informa- tion which is very useful since it provides the context for the processes of climate change which we are experiencing today.
Is great biological diversity of Mexico is re ected in the enormous variety of ecosystems and ecological processes that result from interrelationships between organisms and those between them and their physical environment. ese pro- cesses form the basis of important environmental services, particularly in provi- sioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services.
Mexico is not only noted for the high number of species it possesses, but also for the wealth of endemic species (con ned to the county), and for the high ge- netic variability shown in many taxonomic groups as a result of natural and cul- tural evolution or diversi cation in the country. Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cultures domesticated a great number of species but also utilized many more, both wild and semi-cultivated, for food, therapeutics, textiles, religious activities, ornamental purposes and construction.
Together with Indonesia, Mexico stands out in the world for the close correla- tion between its biological and cultural diversity. It ranks rst in the Americas, and fth worldwide, for the number of languages in existence (291 living lan- guages in the country). roughout Mexico, the distribution of linguistic varia- tion corresponds closely with the areas of greatest biodiversity.