Neotropic ecozone

Neotropic ecozone
The Neotropic Ecozone

In biogeography, the Neotropic or Neotropical zone is one of the eight terrestrial ecozones. This ecozone includes South and Central America, the Mexican lowlands, the Caribbean islands, and southern Florida, because these regions share a large number of plant and animal groups.

It is sometimes used as a synonym for the tropical area of South America,[citation needed] although the ecozone also includes temperate southern South America. The Neotropical Floristic Kingdom excludes southernmost South America, which instead is placed in the Antarctic Kingdom.

The Neotropic is delimited by similarities in fauna or flora. Its fauna and flora are distinct from the Nearctic (which includes most of North America) because of the long separation of the two continents. The formation of the Isthmus of Panama joined the two continents two to three million years ago, precipitating the Great American Interchange, an important biogeographical event.

The Neotropic includes more tropical rainforest (tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests) than any other ecozone, extending from southern Mexico through Central America and northern South America to southern Brazil, including the vast Amazon Rainforest. These rainforest ecoregions are one of the most important reserves of biodiversity on Earth. These rainforests are also home to a diverse array of indigenous peoples, who to varying degrees persist in their autonomous and traditional cultures and subsistence within this environment. The number of these peoples who are as yet relatively untouched by external influences continues to decline significantly, however, along with the near-exponential expansion of urbanization, roads, pastoralism and forest industries which encroach on their customary lands and environment. Nevertheless amidst these declining circumstances this vast "reservoir" of human diversity continues to survive, albeit much depleted. In South America alone, some 350–400 indigenous languages and dialects are still living (down from an estimated 1,500 at the time of first European contact), in about 37 distinct language families and a further number of unclassified and isolate languages. Many of these languages and their cultures are also endangered. Accordingly, conservation in the Neotropic zone is a hot political concern, and raises many arguments about development versus indigenous versus ecological rights and access to or ownership of natural resources.


Major ecological regions

The WWF subdivides the ecozone into bioregions, defined as "geographic clusters of ecoregions that may span several habitat types, but have strong biogeographic affinities, particularly at taxonomic levels higher than the species level (genus, family)."


The Amazonia bioregion is mostly covered by tropical moist broadleaf forest, including the vast Amazon rainforest, which stretches from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, and the lowland forests of the Guianas. The bioregion also includes tropical savanna and tropical dry forest ecoregions.


Central America

Central Andes

Eastern South America

Eastern South America includes the Caatinga xeric shrublands of northeastern Brazil, the broad Cerrado grasslands and savannas of the Brazilian Plateau, and the Pantanal and Chaco grasslands. The diverse Atlantic forests of eastern Brazil are separated from the forests of Amazonia by the Caatinga and Cerrado, and are home to a distinct flora and fauna.

Northern Andes


The Orinoco is a region of humid forested broadleaf forest and wetland primarily comprising the drainage basin for the Orinoco River and other adjacent lowland forested areas. This region includes most of Venezuela and parts of Colombia.

Southern South America

The temperate forest ecoregions of southwestern South America, including the temperate rain forests of the Valdivian temperate rain forests and Magellanic subpolar forests ecoregions, and the Juan Fernandez Islands and Desventuradas Islands, are a refuge for the ancient Antarctic flora, which includes trees like the southern beech (Nothofagus), podocarps, the alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), and Araucaria pines like the monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana). These magnificent rainforests are endangered by extensive logging and their replacement by fast-growing non-native pines and eucalyptus.


South America was originally part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, which included Africa, Australia, India, New Zealand, and Antarctica, and the Neotropic shares many plant and animal lineages with these other continents, including Marsupial mammals and the Antarctic flora.

After the final breakup of the Gondwana about 110 million years ago, South America was separated from Africa and drifted north and west. Much later, about 2 to 3 million years ago, South America was joined with North America by the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, which allowed a biotic exchange between the two continents, the Great American Interchange. South American species like the ancestors of the Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and the armadillo moved into North America, and North Americans like the ancestors of South America's camelids, including the llama (Lama glama), moved south. The long-term effect of the exchange was the extinction of many South American species, mostly by outcompetition by northern species.

Endemic animals and plants


Thirty-one bird families are endemic to the Neotropical ecozone, over twice the number of any other ecozone. They include rheas, tinamous, curassows, and toucans. Bird families originally unique to the Neotropics include hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) and wrens (family Troglodytidae).

Mammal groups originally unique to the Neotropics include:

Forty-three fish families and subfamilies are endemic to the Neotropical ecozone, more than any other ecozone (Reis et al., 2003). Neotropical fishes include more than 5,700 species, and represent at least 66 distinct lineages in continental freshwaters (Albert and Reis, 2011). Some fish groups originally unique to the Neotropics include:

Examples of groups that are entirely or mainly restricted to the Neotropical region include


Plant families that originated in the Neotropic include Bromeliaceae, Cannaceae, and Heliconiaceae.

Plant species originally unique to the Neotropic include:

Neotropic Terrestrial Ecoregions

Neotropic Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forestsv · Araucaria moist forests
Argentina, Brazil
Atlantic Coast restingas Brazil
Bahia coastal forests Brazil
Bahia interior forests Brazil
Bolivian Yungas Bolivia, Peru
Caatinga enclaves moist forests Brazil
Caqueta moist forests Brazil, Colombia
Catatumbo moist forests Venezuela
Cauca Valley montane forests Colombia
Cayos Miskitos-San Andrés and Providencia moist forests Colombia, Nicaragua
Central American Atlantic moist forests Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
Central American montane forests El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua
Chiapas montane forests Mexico
Chimalapas montane forests Mexico
Chocó-Darién moist forests Colombia, Ecuador, Panama
Cocos Island moist forests Costa Rica
Cordillera de la Costa montane forests Venezuela
Cordillera Oriental montane forests Colombia, Venezuela
Costa Rican seasonal moist forests Costa Rica, Nicaragua
Cuban moist forests Cuba
Eastern Cordillera Real montane forests Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Eastern Panamanian montane forests Colombia, Panama
Fernando de Noronha-Atol das Rocas moist forests Brazil
Guayanan highlands forests Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
Guianan moist forests Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
Gurupa varzea Brazil
Hispaniolan moist forests Dominican Republic, Haiti
Iquitos varzea Bolivia, Brazil, Peru
Isthmian-Atlantic moist forests Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama
Isthmian-Pacific moist forests Costa Rica, Panama
Jamaican moist forests Jamaica
Japurá-Solimoes-Negro moist forests Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela
Juruá-Purus moist forests Brazil
Leeward Islands moist forests Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Nevis, Saint Kitts, British Virgin Islands
Madeira-Tapajós moist forests Bolivia, Brazil
Magdalena Valley montane forests Colombia
Magdalena-Urabá moist forests Colombia
Marajó varzea Brazil
Maranhão Babaçu forests Brazil
Mato Grosso tropical dry forests Brazil
Monte Alegre varzea Brazil
Napo moist forests Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Negro-Branco moist forests Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela
Northeastern Brazil restingas Brazil
Northwestern Andean montane forests Colombia, Ecuador
Oaxacan montane forests Mexico
Orinoco Delta swamp forests Guyana, Venezuela
Pantanos de Centla Mexico
Paramaribo swamp forests Guyana, Suriname
Paraná-Paraíba interior forests Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
Pernambuco coastal forests Brazil
Pernambuco interior forests Brazil
Peruvian Yungas Peru
Petén-Veracruz moist forests Mexico
Puerto Rican moist forests Puerto Rico
Purus varzea Brazil
Purus-Madeira moist forests Brazil
Rio Negro campinarana Brazil, Colombia
Santa Marta montane forests Colombia
Serra do Mar coastal forests Brazil
Sierra de los Tuxtlas Mexico
Sierra Madre de Chiapas moist forest El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico
Solimões-Japurá moist forest Brazil, Colombia, Peru
South Florida rocklands United States
Southern Andean Yungas Argentina, Bolivia
Southwest Amazon moist forests Bolivia, Brazil, Peru
Talamancan montane forests Costa Rica, Panama
Tapajós-Xingu moist forests Brazil
Tepuis Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
Tocantins-Araguaia-Maranhão moist forests Brazil
Trinidad and Tobago moist forests Trinidad and Tobago
Trindade-Martin Vaz Islands tropical forests Brazil
Uatuma-Trombetas moist forests Brazil, Guyana, Suriname
Ucayali moist forests Peru
Venezuelan Andes montane forests Colombia, Venezuela
Veracruz moist forests Mexico
Veracruz montane forests Mexico
Western Ecuador moist forests Colombia, Ecuador
Windward Islands moist forests Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Xingu-Tocantins-Araguaia moist forests Brazil
Yucatán moist forests Belize, Guatemala, Mexico
Neotropic Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forestsv · Apure-Villavicencio dry forests
Atlantic dry forests Brazil
Bahamian dry forests Bahamas
Bajío dry forests Mexico
Balsas dry forests Mexico
Bolivian montane dry forests Mexico
Cauca Valley dry forests Colombia
Cayman Islands dry forests Cayman Islands
Central American dry forests Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua
Chaco Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay
Chiapas Depression dry forests Guatemala, Mexico
Chiquitano dry forests Bolivia, Brazil
Cuban dry forests Cuba
Ecuadorian dry forests Ecuador
Hispaniolan dry forests Dominican Republic, Haiti
Jalisco dry forests Mexico
Jamaican dry forests Jamaica
Lara-Falcón dry forests Venezuela
Leeward Islands dry forests Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat
Magdalena Valley dry forests Colombia
Maracaibo dry forests Venezuela
Marañón dry forests Peru
Panamanian dry forests Panama
Patía Valley dry forests Colombia
Puerto Rican dry forests Puerto Rico
Revillagigedo Islands dry forests Mexico
Sierra de la Laguna dry forests Mexico
Sinaloan dry forests Mexico
Sinu Valley dry forests Colombia
Southern Pacific dry forests Mexico
Trinidad and Tobago dry forests Trinidad and Tobago
Tumbes-Piura dry forests Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Veracruz dry forests Mexico
Windward Islands dry forests Grenada, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Yucatán dry forests Mexico
Neotropic Tropical and subtropical coniferous forestsv · Bahamian pineyards
The Bahamas
Belizian pine forests Belize
Central American pine-oak forests El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua
Cuban pine forests Cuba
Hispaniolan pine forests Haiti, Dominican Republic
Miskito pine forests Honduras, Nicaragua
Sierra de la Laguna pine-oak forests Mexico
Sierra Madre de Oaxaca pine-oak forests Mexico
Sierra Madre del Sur pine-oak forests Mexico
Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests Mexico
Neotropic Temperate broadleaf and mixed forestsv · Juan Fernandez Islands temperate forests
Magellanic subpolar forests Argentina, Chile
Polylepis forests Bolivia, Peru
San Felix-San Ambrosio Islands temperate forests (Desventuradas Islands) Chile
Valdivian temperate rain forests Argentina, Chile
Campos Rupestres montane savanna Brazil
Cerrado Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay
Clipperton Island shrub and grasslands Clipperton Island is an overseas territory of France
Córdoba montane savanna Argentina
Guyanan savanna Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela
Gran Chaco Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
Llanos Colombia, Venezuela
Uruguayan savanna Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay
Neotropic Temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublandsv · Argentine Espinal
Argentine Monte Argentina
Humid Pampas Argentina
Patagonian grasslands Argentina, Chile
Patagonian steppe Argentina, Chile
Semi-arid Pampas Argentina
Neotropic Flooded grasslands and savannasv · Central Mexican wetlands
Cuban wetlands Cuba
Enriquillo wetlands Dominican Republic, Haiti
Everglades United States
Guayaquil flooded grasslands Ecuador
Orinoco wetlands Venezuela
Pantanal Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay
Paraná flooded savanna Argentina
Southern Cone Mesopotamian savanna Argentina
Neotropic Montane grasslands and shrublandsv · Central Andean dry puna
Argentina, Bolivia, Chile
Central Andean puna Argentina, Bolivia, Peru
Central Andean wet puna Bolivia, Peru
Cordillera Central páramo Ecuador, Peru
Cordillera de Merida páramo Venezuela
Northern Andean páramo Colombia, Ecuador
Santa Marta páramo Colombia
Talamanca Paramo Costa Rica, Panama
Southern Andean steppe Argentina, Chile
Zacatonal Mexico, Guatemala
Neotropic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrubv · Chilean Matorral
Neotropic Deserts and xeric shrublandsv · Araya and Paria xeric scrub
Aruba-Curaçao-Bonaire cactus scrub Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao
Atacama desert Chile, Peru
Caatinga Brazil
Cayman Islands xeric scrub Cayman Islands
Cuban cactus scrub Cuba
Galápagos Islands xeric scrub Ecuador
Guajira-Barranquilla xeric scrub Colombia, Venezuela
La Costa xeric shrublands Venezuela
Leeward Islands xeric scrub Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Saba, US Virgin Islands
Malpelo Island xeric scrub Colombia
Motagua Valley thornscrub Guatemala
Paraguana xeric scrub Venezuela
San Lucan xeric scrub Mexico
Sechura desert Peru
Tehuacán Valley matorral Mexico
Windward Islands xeric scrub Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Saint Peter and Saint Paul rocks Brazil
  • this is because it gets only ten inches of precipitation a year
Neotropic Mangrovev · Alvarado mangroves
Amapá mangroves Brazil
Bahamian mangroves Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands
Bahia mangroves Brazil
Belizean Coast mangroves Belize
Belizean Reef mangroves Belize
Bocas del Toro-San Bastimentos Island-San Blas mangroves Costa Rica, Panama
Coastal Venezuelan mangroves Venezuela
Esmeraldes-Pacific Colombia mangroves Colombia, Ecuador
Florida mangroves United States
Greater Antilles mangroves Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico
Guianan mangroves French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela
Gulf of Fonseca mangroves El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua
Gulf of Guayaquil-Tumbes mangroves Ecuador, Peru
Gulf of Panama mangroves Panama
Ilha Grande mangroves Brazil
Lesser Antilles mangroves Lesser Antilles
Magdalena-Santa Marta mangroves Colombia
Manabí mangroves Ecuador
Maranhão mangroves Brazil
Marismas Nacionales-San Blas mangroves Mexico
Mayan Corridor mangroves Mexico
Mexican South Pacific Coast mangroves Mexico
Moist Pacific Coast mangroves Costa Rica, Panama
Mosquitia-Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast mangroves Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua
Northern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves El Salvador, Guatemala
Northern Honduras mangroves Guatemala, Honduras
Pará mangroves Brazil
Petenes mangroves Mexico
Piura mangroves Peru
Ría Lagartos mangroves Mexico
Rio Negro-Rio San Sun mangroves Costa Rica, Nicaragua
Rio Piranhas mangroves Brazil
Rio São Francisco mangroves Brazil
Southern Dry Pacific Coast mangroves Costa Rica, Nicaragua
Tehuantepec-El Manchon mangroves Mexico
Trinidad mangroves Trinidad and Tobago
Usumacinta mangroves Mexico


  • Albert, J. S., and R. E. Reis (2011). Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press, Berkeley. 424 pp. ISBN 9780520268685 [1]
  • Cox, C. B.; P. D. Moore (1985). Biogeography: An Ecological and Evolutionary Approach (Fourth Edition). Blackwell Scientific Publications, Oxford.
  • Dinerstein, Eric; David Olson; Douglas J. Graham; et al. (1995). A Conservation Assessment of the Terrestrial Ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean. World Bank, Washington D.C.
  • Schultz, J.: The Ecozones of the World, Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, 2nd ed. 2005. ISBN 3-540-20014-2
  • Reis, R. E., S. O. Kullander, and C. J. Ferraris Jr. 2003. Check List of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Edipucrs, Porto Alegre. 729 pp.
  • Udvardy, M. D. F. (1975). A classification of the biogeographical provinces of the world. IUCN Occasional Paper no. 18. Morges, Switzerland: IUCN.

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