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Temperate Sierras

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Map Legend & Subregion List

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NameColor on Map
Upper Gila Mountains
Western Sierra Madre
Eastern Sierra Madre
Transversal Neo-Volcanic System
Southern Sierra Madre
Central American Sierra Madre and Chiapas Highlands

About the Temperate Sierras

The Temperate Sierras represent a region of temperate climate in the mountains of central North America south into Mexico. These regions have enough moisture levels to support forests, but cooler temperatures on average than a tropical rainforest.

The northernmost part of this region has four well-defined seasons and a climate that superficially resembles that of Eastern North America, with cold winters and hot summers. However, the day-to-day weather is often more predictable in these regions, driven more by the topography and less by chaotic dynamics of motions of large air masses across open parts of the continent. These regions are also geographically isolated from areas of similar climate, mostly surrounded either by desert or semi-arid parts of the great plains at low altitudes. The northern part of this region also borders the Southern Semi-arid Highlands to the south.

As one moves south into Mexico, the seasonality of temperatuures becomes less pronounced, and the region mostly borders tropical dry forests to the southeast and at lower altitudes, and Semi-arid grasslands to the northeast. These regions of the temperate sierras include high-altitude cloud forests unlike anything in the continental U.S.

The entirety of this region has a high portion of endemic plants; biodiversity is highest towards the south where both a milder, wetter climate overall and adjacency to biodiverse tropical regions has led to more species richness, but there are many endemic species in the northernmost part of this region as well.

Cloud forests like this one near Cuetzalan, Puebla, Mexico, are among the most biodiverse parts of the temperate sierras region. Photo © John Leszczynski, CC BY-SA 2.0