The park is one of the nucleus or core areas within the Maya Biosphere Reserve, in the Peten. Around seventy percent of Peten is still covered by primary forest, with a canopy that towers 50 meters above the forest floor, made up of ceiba, mahogany and sapodilla trees. At Tikal the usual temperature is above 25ºC (annual average), and usual rainfall is between 1,281 mm per annum, it is hot and humid.The Maya Biosphere Reserve is the largest continuous tract of forest in the American Continent after the Amazon Jungle in Brazil. Most of the Maya Biosphere Reserve remains miraculously undisturbed. However, recent oil finds and migrant settlers are all putting strain on the Laguna del Tigre National Park, the largest in Guatemala. However, the eastern half of the reserve, where the Tikal National Park is, is still an ecological paradise.The forest of Peten extends across the Mexican border, where it merges with the Lacandon rainforest, and into Belize, where it skirts around the lower slopes of the Maya Mountains, reaching to the Caribbean coast. Together, the Maya Jungle is a tri-national 5 million hectare nucleus, buffer and multiple use zone system, that protects an amazing biodiversity: hundreds of species of trees, animals and plants. It’s a biological storehouse that has yet to be fully explored although it has already yielded some astonishing discoveries.Despite its size and diversity the forest is surprisingly fragile. It forms a closed system in which nutrients are continuously recycled and decaying plant matter fuels new growth. The forest floor is a spongy mass of roots, fungi, mosses, bacteria and micro-organisms, in which nutrients are stored, broken down with the assistance of insects and chemical decay, and gradually released to the waiting roots and fresh seedlings.These forests depend on their own wholesomeness for their continued survival. The thick canopy prevents light from reaching the forest floor, ensuring that the soil remains damp and warm.
The death of a large tree prompts a flurry of growth as new light reaches the forest floor, and in no time at all a young tree rises to fill the gap. But once the trees are removed the soil is rendered highly vulnerable, deprived of its main source of fertility. Exposed to the harsh tropical sun and direct rainfall, an area of cleared forest soon becomes prone to flooding and drought.In its undisturbed state, such as in the Tikal National Park the rainforest is superbly beautiful and is home to an incredible abundance of wildlife. Ocellated turkey, toucans, motmots, several species of parrot -including the Aztec parrot and Green parakeets, as well as hawks are all common in Tikal.Amongst the mammals you’ll find are jaguars, peccary, brocket deer, weasels, pumas, ocelots, armadillos and two species of monkey, including spiders and howlers.
The massive tapir (mountain cow) plunders through the forest.According to Holdridge (1967) central Peten lies in a transitional area between the tropical dry and the tropical moist semi deciduous forests. Cyrus L. Lundell (1937) refers to the Peten forest as a quasi-rainforest, suggesting the presence of the flora and fauna, as well as the structural and rainfall characteristics of a typical rainforest, but to a lesser degree than found in most equatorial rainforests. Unfortunately, slash and burn agriculture and clear-cutting outside the park have drastically reduced the more productive primary forests to a mosaic pattern of forest fragments. Therefore, the species that prefer clearings, second-growth forests and other disturbed habitats are found in greater abundance, such as Great-tailed Grackles, Black Vultures and Cattle Egrets. Conversely, several primary forest-dependent species seem to be experiencing dramatic declines in their relative abundances, such as the Orange-Breasted Falcon or the Spotted Wood-Quail.
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