Citlaltepetl volcano of the Sierra Madre Oriental

Sierra Madre Oriental

The Sierra Madre Oriental is a mountain range located in the northeast of Mexico. It is part of a much larger range that forms a near-continuous line of mountains and peaks through North America, Central America, South America, and even Antarctica, known as the ​​American Cordillera.

Geography Of The Sierra Madre Oriental 

Sierra madre oriental
Mountains of the Sierra Madre Oriental range.

The Sierra Madre Oriental starts in Rio Grande, at the border of Texas and Coahuila, and runs south through Nuevo Leon, the southwest portion of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Hidalgo, and the north of Puebla. The range includes Sierra del Burro and the Sierra del Carmen at its most northern point bordering the United States. North of the border and the Rio Grande, the mountain range becomes Texas's Davis and Guadalupe ranges.To the east of the mountain range is the Gulf Coastal Plain which separates the mountains from the coast. The Sierra Madre Oriental is separated from the Sierra Madre Occidental by the Mexican Plateau on the west side. The mountains themselves are folded mountains of sedimentary rock, most dominantly shale and limestone formed during the Cretaceous Period. It is estimated that the peaks and ranges began to form roughly 23 million years ago due to uplifting events below the earth's crust. The range has 4941 different named peaks, of which the highest is Cerro El Potosi which measures 3,721 meters above sea level. The most prominent peak is the Cerro La Joya, which measures 2,941meters. 

Vegetation Of Sierra Madre Oriental 

The area that is the Sierra Madre Oriental is rich with wildlife and a variety of ecosystems. In fact, it is a highly biodiverse area. An incredibly high number of endemic species live in this region, both plants and animals. Generally, the climate of this range is drier in the north and wetter in the south, with the primary ecosystem being Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests. These forests thrive between 1,000 and 3,500 meters above sea level.The eastern side of the range contains the Tamaulipan matorral, which is mainly desert and xeric shrublands. Woody shrubs, small trees, cacti, and succulents dominate the region. This biome covers the lower slopes of Nuevo Leon and the north part of Tamaulipas.The central range is mainly Veracruz moist forests. This region has mainly tropical broadleaf forests consisting of 30-meter tall trees such as Mayan breadnut, sapodilla, rosadillo and Bursera simaruba. The eastern slopes and the southern point of the Sierra Madre Oriental range are dominated by Veracruz montane forests, similar to the moist forest with evergreen broadleaf trees and a thick closed canopy. Below the trees, plants such as orchids, bromeliads, mosses, and lichens, are common. 

Animals Of Sierra Madre Oriental 

monarch butterfly in sierra madre
Monarch butterflies in the Sierra Madre Oriental region.

The pine-oak forests which take up a major portion of this range are part of the migratory route of monarch butterflies, and as such, they can be seen here in abundance at certain times of the year. Similarly, the forests and mountains are popular homes for various birds like the Mexican chickadee, Montezuma quail, Strickland's woodpecker, zone-tailed hawk, and various types of jays. The pine forests are also home to animals such as American black bears, cougars, jaguars, coyotes, mule deer, white-nosed coati, and cliff chipmunks.

A Mexican jay.

The Tamaulipan matorral consists of species such as the Mexican prairie dog, coyotes, Saussure's shrew, yellow-faced pocket gopher, and peccary. Birds include the burrowing owl, hooded oriole, eastern meadowlark, long-billed thrasher, hooded yellowthroat, blue bunting, and olive sparrow. Veracruz moist forests are home to spider monkeys, and various types of mice and rats like the El Carrizo deer mouse and Tamaulipan woodrat. Other animals in the area are the common opossum and Mexican mouse opossum, Mexican anteater, paca, and red brocket. Predators include kinkajou, greater grison, the jaguarondi, ocelot, margay, puma, and jaguar. 

Visiting The Sierra Madre Oriental

This mountain range's rich biodiversity and stunning landscape make them a huge draw for tourists and eco travelers. Hiking is one of the most popular activities among the peaks, and there are various popular hiking places and trails. Some of the most loved include Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, a protected area in the southern part of the Sierra Madre Oriental, and in the northeastern part of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

Protecting these areas and ecosystems is essential as they have become increasingly threatened by human development and industry. Deforestation is the biggest problem caused by logging and clear-cutting for livestock and agriculture. Cattle grazing has caused major damage in some areas due to clearing and the runoff and pollution caused by agriculture more generally. 


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