Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (2023)

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief Synthesis

Located in the Mosquitia region of Northeastern Honduras, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is the largest protected area in the country with 350,000 hectares. The property protects the entire watershed of the Río Plátano all the way from the headwaters in the mountains to the river mouth on the Caribbean Coast. Adding to its importance, the property is an integral part of a significantly larger conservation complex encompassing Tawahka Asangni Biosphere Reserve and Patuca National Park, among other protected areas. Taken as a whole, the conservation complex in Northeastern Honduras is contiguous with Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in neighbouring Nicaragua, jointly constituting the largest contiguous forest area in Latin America north of the Amazon. Besides the remarkable dense rainforests in the mountains, there is a highly diverse array of distinct ecosystems in the coastal lowlands, including wetlands, savannah and coastal lagoons. Recognised as a nature conservation gem, the property also harbours notable archaeological and cultural values, with numerous Pre-Columbian sites and petroglyphs, as well as the living cultures of the various local and indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent in and around Río Plátano include the Pech, Tawahka, Miskito and Garífuna, living alongside the Mestizo (Ladino) population.

The property boasts an extraordinary diversity of ecosystems and species. For example, 586 species of vascular plants have been reported in the low lands of the reserve. The over 721 species of vertebrates comprise more than half of all mammals known to occur in Honduras and include the critically endangered Mexican Spider Monkey, the endangered Central American Tapir, the vulnerable Giant Anteater and West Indian Manatee, as well as the near-threatened Jaguar and White-lipped Peccary. The endangered Great Green Macaw, the vulnerable Great Curassow and the near-threatened Guiana Crested Eagle and harpy eagle stand out among the impressive 411 documented species of birds. Taken together, reptiles and amphibians total about 108 species, with several species of poisonous snakes and 4 species marine turtles (Loggerhead, Leatherback, green turtle and hawksbill turtle) . Freshwater fish include the economically important migratory Bobo Mullet or Cuyamel.Criterion (vii): The natural beauty of Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is a function of the variety of the terrain and landscape types and features. Within its boundaries, the property harbours densely forested mountains reaching 1,418 m.a.s.l. at Punta Piedra, transitioning into savannahs, patches of pine forest and vast wetlands towards the coastal plains of the Caribbean Sea. Along the coast, there are spectacular lagoons, namely Laguna Brus and Laguna Ibans, both full of wildlife, boasting major bird colonies and serving as nurseries for fish and many other forms of aquatic life. Another characteristic element of the landscape are the many rivers and creeks, namely the eponymous Río Plátano and the Sico, Sikre Kipahni, Uhra and Tilasunta Rivers.

Criterion (viii): The property comprises two main geomorphological areas. These are the steep mountain range harbouring the headwaters of Río Plátano and the flat to undulating coastal plains. The latter is composed of terraces of recent marine sediments and partly underlain by a belt of infertile deeply weathered Pleistocene quartz sandy gravels. The Río Plátano meanders for some 45 kilometres through the lowlands forming ox-bow lakes, backwater swamps and natural levees. At about 100 m.a.s.l inland the foothills begin abruptly. The rugged granite mountains, which rise to Punta Piedra at 1,418 m.a.s.l. have many steep ridges, remarkable rock formations such as Pico Dama, a 150 metre pinnacle, and many waterfalls, one reaching 150 metres in height. Two thirds of the Plátano River run through a rugged part of the mountains with long stretches of white water. In one cataract in a deep forested gorge the river disappears under massive boulders. The mountains are part of the Cordillera Central, which corresponds to what was the Honduras Intercontinental Depression, during the Cretaceous period.

Criterion (ix): As one of a quickly decreasing number of major river basins the Plátano River, the heart of the property, continues to flow freely from its mountainous headwaters to the Sea. Along the altitudinal range the property connects a huge variety of very different ecosystems and habitats. The ecological linkages between these ecosystems and corresponding processes continue to be largely intact at the landscape level. Starting from the Caribbean Sea, there are estuarine and marine systems, sandy beaches, coastal lagoons of varying salinity, mangrove swamps, and pine savannah. Along the many rivers and creeks, there are broadleaf gallery forest traversing the savannahs and serving as natural corridors. The bulk of the property, however, are dense tropical rainforests covering the mountain ranges inland with smaller areas of rare elfin forest on the highest ridges.

Criterion (x): As a globally important stronghold of biodiversity Río Plátano harbours at least 586 species of vascular plants in its diverse habitats and there may still be species new to science in remote parts of the property. Across virtually all taxonomic groups, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve is home to impressive proportions of the fauna of the entire country, in many cases well over half of the number of species occurring. The over 721 species of vertebrates include more than half of all mammals known in Honduras, such as the critically endangered Mexican Spider Monkey, the endangered Central American Tapir, the vulnerable Giant Anteater and the West Indian Manatee, as well as the near-threatened Jaguar and White-lipped Peccary. Other charismatic species are Puma, Ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay, Neotropical Otter, White-throated Capuchin Monkey and Mantled Howler Monkey. The endangered Great Green Macaw, the vulnerable Great Curassow and Scarlet Macaw and the near-threatened Guiana Crested Eagle and harpy eagle stand out among the impressive 411 documented species of birds, along with Jabiru, King Vulture and the majestic Harpy Eagle. The 108 species of reptiles and amphibians comprise several rare poisonous snakes and 4 species marine turtles (Loggerhead, Leatherback, green turtle and hawksbill turtle)


The Reserve contains a rich variety of ecosystems (28 terrestrial ecosystems and 5 coastal marine), habitats and species of global conservation importance. The Plátano River is a major landscape feature and corridor connecting all the landscape elements from the rugged mountains to the coastal plains. Granting a conservation status to the entire watershed from the headwaters to the river mouth is an ideal set-up from a conservation perspective.

Protection and Management requirements

Due to its archaeological importance parts of the Río Plátano basin became subject to protection efforts long before the nature conservation values were formally recognised. In 1960, Ciudad Blanca Archaeological Reserve was created, later re-classified as an Archaeological National Park in 1969, which Río Plátano formally remains to this day. In terms of nature conservation, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve was originally designated in 1980 by Decree and substantially extended in 1997 by a further Decree. Likewise in 1980, the area was internationally recognized as a biosphere reserve, prior to the inscription on the World Heritage List in 1982. The legal umbrella for all formally protected areas in Honduras is the national General Environmental Law, which establishes the national protected areas system. Further regulations are specified in a corresponding by-law. More recently, the Forest, Protected Areas and Wildlife Law came into force, jointly with the establishment of a new governmental authority for the management and conservation of forests, nature and wildlife. The legal framework supports co-management agreements and involvement of civil society at all levels.

A major management instrument is zonation to distinguish areas requiring strict protection and areas of controlled use of natural resources.

Despite the strong legal protection, Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve has long been suffering from human pressure threatening its integrity. Forests continue to be logged and converted to pasture, agricultural encroachment and illegal resource extraction are widespread. While systematic law enforcement is needed, there is a consensus that addressing the complex environmental challenges requires integrated development strategies, policies and measures for the entire region across sectors and disciplines and involving local communities. The property is located in a remote region of rural poverty, where a balance between conservation and development is needed. Regulation of land tenure and access to resources and effective co-management and sharing of power in decision-making are seen as promising instruments to this effect.

Indigenous peoples in the Mosquitia continue to have a close relationship with their natural environment, as expressed in myths and beliefs but also knowledge and practices. While not a guarantee for sustainable resource use, this can make a valuable contribution to conservation. Ambitious plans for hydroelectric development on nearby rivers may also entail risks for the conservation values and local livelihoods, therefore requiring careful analysis. Future management of Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve should also promote an enhanced understanding and protection of the many archaeological sites hidden in the dense forests.


What is unique about Lake Tana? ›

Lake Tana is the largest national freshwater body, accounting for 50% of the total inland waters of the country, and is the source of the Abbay of Blue Nile River. The Biosphere Reserve is an important fish resource and is home to up to 67 different species of fish of which 70% are endemic.

Which Unesco biosphere reserves are in Ethiopia? ›

To date exist four biosphere reserves in Ethiopia: Kafa (2010), Yayu (2010), Sheka Forest (2012) and Lake Tana (2015).

What is Lake Tana used for? ›

Lake Tana is used for fishing, farming and transportation, and has a thriving tourist industry centred on the more than 30 islands on the Lake, home to numerous Ethiopian Orthodox Church monasteries dating back more than five centuries.

Where is Lake Tana found? ›

Located in Amhara Region in the north-western Ethiopian Highlands, the lake is approximately 84 kilometres (52 miles) long and 66 kilometres (41 miles) wide, with a maximum depth of 15 metres (49 feet), and an elevation of 1,788 metres (5,866 feet). Lake Tana is fed by the Gilgel Abay, Reb and Gumara rivers.

What is the problem of Lake Tana? ›

Lake Tana and its surrounding wetlands are of immense ecological value and provide the means of existence for millions of people, however increasing human activity is causing the destruction of this unique area. Ecosystems are being degraded through the high pressure on natural resources.

Are there crocodiles in Lake Tana? ›

Approximately 70% of the 67 different fish species recorded in Lake Tana are endemic and the lake is home to the only remaining intact flock of Barbus fish in the world. Hippopotamuses, and reptiles like the Nile Crocodile and Nile Monitor also populate the lake and its surrounding areas.

Which is the 1st biosphere reserve in world? ›

UNESCO declares world's first 5-country biosphere reserve along Mura-Drava-Danube.

Which biosphere reserve is famous? ›

Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve is India's first and foremost biosphere reserves with a heritage, rich in flora and fauna.

What is the newest biosphere reserve? ›

Recently, Panna Biosphere Reserve was also given the International status of UNESCO Protected Biosphere Reserve. The status was given in the year 2020, and prior to that, the Khangchendzonga Biosphere Reserve from India was also included in this list in 2018.

Which fish is caught in river Tana? ›

Fish Species
Protopterus annectens annectensProtopteridaeDemersal
Salmo trutta truttaSalmonidaePelagic
Schilbe intermediusSchilbeidaePelagic
Schilbe mystusSchilbeidaeDemersal
18 more rows

Why is the Tana River important? ›

The Tana River basin supplies Nairobi with 80 per cent of its drinking water. It also provides 70 per cent of the country's hydropower.

Which fish is found in river Tana? ›

Brown trout S. trutta, rainbow trout, S. gairdneri and american brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis have all been introduced to the cold upper reaches of the Tana.

Is Lake Tana a depression lake? ›

Lake Tana, largest lake of Ethiopia, in a depression of the northwest plateau, 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) above sea level.

How much water is in Lake Tana? ›

average 5 billion cubic meters (BCM). models (Chebud and Melesse, 2009) that take into account geological inferences. In general, the propagation of error could limit the predictability of Lake Tana using deterministic water balance approaches.

How many islands are in Lake Tana? ›

Lake Tana has been the political and spiritual centre of the Ethiopian Christian faith for many centuries. It is made up of 37 Islands, around 27 of which have monasteries, churches, and ruined of palaces which are the oldest age and considerable historical important.

What is the biggest threat to lakes? ›

Threats to the Great Lakes

Pollutants from residential, agricultural, and industrial areas reduce water quality. Land development decreases the amount of wildlife habitat. Fish populations have been declining in recent years as a result of these threats and increased fishing pressure.

Why is Lake Tai polluted? ›

Even in its degraded state, Lake Tai made an ideal habitat for China's chemical industry, which expanded prolifically in the 1980s. Chemical factories consume and discharge large quantities of water, which the lake provided and absorbed.

What are at least four threats of lakes? ›

Yet, due to climate change, pollution, mining, population pressure, and unsustainable land use, they are declining at an unprecedented rate. Freshwater ecosystems have lost more extent and biodiversity than almost any ecosystem in the world. The threats facing lakes are interlinked.

What is the most alligator infested lake? ›

The majority of alligator infested lakes are in Florida, with Lake Jesup being the most infested lake in the United States. This lake in central Florida is home to an estimated 13,000 alligators.

What is the most crocodile infested waters? ›

With an average of 75 crocodiles per square mile, the Tárcoles River in Costa Rica is the perfect setting for the world's highest concentration of crocodiles. This river is a popular tourist destination because of its crocodiles, believe it or not.

Which island is infested with crocodiles? ›

The island that holds the world-record for largest human massacre caused by animals. Unfortunately for the fleeing men, the mangrove jungle on Ramree Island is home to an unknown number of the largest reptilian predator in the world — the saltwater crocodile.

Which is the biggest biosphere reserve in the world? ›

The Great Gobi Biosphere Reserve is one of the largest Biosphere Reserves in the world. Located in the south-west of Mongolia at the border with the People's Republic of China, it represents the Central Asian deserts.

How many Biospheres are there on Earth? ›

Currently, there are 563 biosphere reserves all over the world. The first biosphere reserve was established in Yangambi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Who created biosphere reserve? ›

The programme of Biosphere Reserve was initiated by UNESCO in 1971.

Is biosphere reserve a national park? ›

A national park is a reserved area of land owned by the government which is protected from industrialization, human exploitation, and pollution. A biosphere reserve is a term given to an area for the conservation of the resources of the biosphere and the improvement of the relationship between man and the environment.

What are 3 biosphere reserves? ›

They are places that provide local solutions to global challenges. Biosphere reserves include terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems.

What are the names of five biosphere? ›

Kachchh, Gujarat (Largest Area)

Similipal, Odisha. Sundarban, West Bengal. Seshachalam, Andhra Pradesh. Agasthyamala, Karnataka-Tamil Nadu-Kerala.

Can you live in Biosphere 2? ›

On April 4, 1994, two former Biospherians – Abigail Alling and Mark Van –- headed down to the dome in the early hours of the morning, opening doors and smashing glass panels to allow outside air to flood into Biosphere 2, forcing the experiment to end. Since then, nobody has lived in Biosphere 2.

Why is biosphere closed? ›

The biosphere is a closed system meaning matter does not enter or exit (except for space dust). The amount of water is the same now as it has been for the last 4 billion years. Water continually gets recycled through the water cycle.

How many biospheres are there in the US? ›

There are 47 U.S. biosphere reserves. Most are made up of federal protected areas, like national parks and national forest lands, although in some instances they include state parks and some private lands that are under specific conservation easements.

Which river fish is tasty? ›

Pulasa fish from the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh is the tastiest and most expensive of all the popular fish in India. The hilsa, Ilish, and hilsa shad are all names for the same type of fish.

Can you fish the river roach? ›

Roach are very obliging and will often give you a few bites when not much else is happening. Legering is worth a go but the truly classic way to catch roach from a river is to floatfish with a waggler or stick, running the hookbait down the swim with the pace of the flow and loosefeeding regularly.

Can you fish Sun River? ›

The Sun River in Montana is a great fishing destination for only the most ambitious anglers. It is a remote rivers and presents multiple challenges. But for those willing to embrace the challenge, it provides some of the best fishing opportunities and some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Montana.

What are some challenges facing Tana River County? ›

Tana River is the largest river in the country and supports communities in the area. Some of the challenges that the county faces include land degradation, destruction of forests, human and wildlife conflict, overgrazing, uncoordinated development and overexploitation of resources.

What's the deepest river in the world? ›

The Congo is the deepest river in the world. Its headwaters are in the north-east of Zambia, between Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa (Malawi), 1760 metres above sea level; it flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

What is the main source of Tana River? ›

The Tana River is Kenya's largest river. Its source is the Aberdare Mountains and the craggy snow covered peaks of Mount Kenya.

What river is in piranhas? ›

Piranhas range from northern Argentina to Colombia, but they are most diverse in the Amazon River, where 20 different species are found. The most infamous is the red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri), with the strongest jaws and sharpest teeth of all.

Is river Tana salty? ›

The high salinity levels in River Tana is threatening livelihoods of people in this Delta.

What is the most common fish in rivers? ›

Common Stream Fish
  • Common Shiner.
  • Brook Trout.
  • Brown Trout.
  • Creek Chub.
  • Fallfish.
  • Eastern Blacknose Dace.
  • Bluntnose Shiner.
  • Golden Shiner.

What is the cleanest lake in Ethiopia? ›

Lake Langano

Although its color can give the impression that the lake is polluted, it is one of the cleanest lakes in the region and its brown water is the result of high mineral content. The area surrounding the lake is forested and rich in wildlife, and also contains numerous resorts.

What is the largest depression lake in Africa? ›

Lake Victoria

Is Lake Tana a volcanic lake? ›

Approximately 84 kilometres in length and 66 kilometres wide, Lake Tana is Ethiopia's largest lake and, at an elevation of 1840 meters above sea level, it is also the highest lake in Africa. It was formed by volcanic activity around 5 million years ago.

Is Lake Tana polluted? ›

Sedimentation is a threat to Lake Tana. Fecal pollution and toxigenic cyanobacteria are detected in the lake especially in the shores and river mouths.

Is Lake Tana a freshwater lake? ›

Lake Tana is the largest national freshwater body, accounting for 50% of the total inland waters of the country, and is the source of the Abbay of the Blue Nile River.

Is Lake Tana is the source of White Nile? ›

The White Nile, which is the longer of the two, begins at Lake Victoria in Tanzania and flows north until it reaches Khartoum, Sudan, where it converges with the Blue Nile. The Blue Nile begins near Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The Nile River empties into the Mediterranean Sea in northern Egypt.

What lake has over 400 islands? ›

Lake Superior has over 400 islands, the largest of which is Isle Royale, with a size of 207 square miles.

Is Island lake private? ›

Island Lake is a 147 acre, Private lake located in Longwood in Seminole County.

What are islands in lakes called? ›

A recursive island or lake is an island or a lake that lies within a lake or an island.

What is the most famous lake in Uganda Why? ›

Lake Victoria, also called Victoria Nyanza, largest lake in Africa and chief reservoir of the Nile, lying mainly in Tanzania and Uganda but bordering on Kenya. Its area is 26,828 square miles (69,484 square km). Among the freshwater lakes of the world, it is exceeded in size only by Lake Superior in North America.

Is Lake Tana the largest in Africa? ›

Approximately 84 kilometres in length and 66 kilometres wide, Lake Tana is Ethiopia's largest lake and, at an elevation of 1840 meters above sea level, it is also the highest lake in Africa.

What is Lake of the Woods famous for? ›

Known for its spectacular muskie fishing, Lake of the Woods also harbours walleye, pike, bass, lake trout, perch, crappie and whitefish. The choice of lodges is also excellent with American Plan and housekeeping plans available. There are also several campgrounds and you can even rent a houseboat.

What is the rank of Lake Tana in Africa? ›

Measuring a depth of 2,316 feet or 706 meters, Lake Tanganyika ranks as the world's 6th deepest lake. It is also an old lake, formed 1-2 million years ago. This trench-like lake extends across two African countries – Mozambique and Tanzania.

Which is the oldest lake in the world *? ›

Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest freshwater lake, curves for nearly 400 miles through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. At its deepest point it is over 5,000 feet (1,637 meters) deep.

Can you swim in Lake Victoria? ›

Swimming in Lake Victoria is not recommended but you will see locals and international visitors swimming in the great lake. The main worry about swimming in Lake Victoria is the risk of contracting bilharzia. There are also large populations of hippo and crocodiles in the lake.

What is the largest tropical lake in the world? ›

With a surface area of approximately 59,947 km2 (23,146 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africa's largest lake by area, the world's largest tropical lake, and the world's second-largest fresh water lake by surface area after Lake Superior in North America.

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