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Fireflies, a key indicator of biodiversity in forests

Fireflies, a key indicator of biodiversity in forests


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Fireflies, a species of luminescent insect, is considered a key indicator to know the state of conservation of the humid forests and their biodiversity in Mexico.

The presence of fireflies

"The more fireflies that inhabit, the more conserved the forests are," said biologist Isabel Trejo Aguilar, from the Biomedical graduate program at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Trejo recognizes the role of fireflies in evaluating the conservation status of forests in his study "Characterization of forest structural complexity in Mexico through remote sensing: an approach to biodiversity."

He explained that this study consists of the analysis and observation of wooded environments, particularly in Xalapa, capital of the eastern state of Veracruz, which are characterized by being humid and with ideal conditions for fireflies.

By observing the vegetation, he identified that the lowest layer of the trees is where the highest concentration of fireflies is located.

"If the forest area decreases, the number of fireflies decreases." Indicator species, such as fireflies, make it possible "to study ecosystems, we can observe them and they are easily measurable," he explained.

The health status of the indicator species is a sign of the overall health of the ecosystem. In this case, they account for "the conservation of forests and their biodiversity," he emphasized.

Urban lights

The expert indicated that the greatest impact for fireflies are urban lights at night, because at night they communicate with each other with a coordination of light signals made by the female and the male.

When there is an urban community very close to the forests, it implies that there are “city lights”, which confuses the fireflies causing them to be unable to communicate and synchronize to reproduce, he stressed.

Trejo recognized that coexistence between human beings and fireflies is possible, as long as there is a well-preserved forest area around urban areas.

As an example, he mentioned the case of the forests in the state of Tlaxcala, where the use of wood for its sale was the main productive activity in the region until 2011.

"The inhabitants of the area noticed that the forests were diminishing and at the same time they identified that many people visited the area to observe the fireflies that lived there," he said.

The Firefly Sanctuary

The villagers decided no longer to exploit their forests to obtain wood, and to conserve them to maintain and promote the tourism that came to see the luminescent natural spectacle, now known as "the sanctuary of the fireflies."

"This reduced wood production by 70%," which "decreased the loss of forest and maintained the presence of fireflies in Tlaxcala," he stressed.

The humid forests of Xalapa are also a “sanctuary for fireflies” and, therefore, are important for the conservation of natural wealth.

The indicator species indicate a whole history of balance in the nature of a certain place, in this case study it is the fireflies who tell a piece of the history of the humid forests in Xalapa, the expert concluded.

This is what the sanctuary looks like:

The scene is dominated by the darkness of the forest. Suddenly, the light emitted by these magical insects crosses the space with playful strokes. The natural spectacle is joined by the stars, planets and galaxies of the firmament, perfectly visible from this forest far from civilization.

When to go. Firefly season is between the months of July and August.

How to get to Nanacamilpa. If you come from Mexico City, take highway 136D towards Texcoco and continue until the deviation to Francisco I. Madero, there turn right and 6 km later you will arrive at Nanacamilpa.

With information from:


Video: David Attenborough: Save magical kelp forests - BBC Inside Out South (June 2022).


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