Apaneca-Ilamatepec Biosphere Reserve

This biosphere reserve encompasses an area of 53,000 hectares and includes habitats ranging from forests and lava flows to lagoons and coffee farms, and other habitats. This region of mountains and volcanoes is home to important species for global conservation and is high in biodiversity.

Municipalities within the conservation area

  • San Francisco Menéndez
  • Tacuba
  • Jujutla
  • Acajutla
  • Concepción de Ataco

The reserve is divided into three areas: core, transition, and buffer. The core area is made up of protected areas including the Los Volcanoes (Volcanoes) and San Marcelino complexes, where the greatest proportion of conifer trees in the country is found.

The buffer zone is made up of remaining forests and shade-grown coffee, favoring the connectivity of ecosystems, landscape preservation, and flora and fauna. Shade-grown coffee is one of the main agricultural activities contributing to local development, and one of the most symbolic forests.

A number of communities are located within the transition area, including Nahuizalco, Izalco and Juayúa and their surrounding areas, which are the most important centers for the preservation of cultural and traditional values in the region.

The Coatepeque Lake is the reserve’s main body of the water. It is of volcanic origin, located in the crater of an extinct volcano. Approximately 15,000 people depend on this lake’s fish, which is also a major tourist attraction.


  • 760 plant species, of which 58 are threatened with extinction and 14 are endangered.
  • 21 fish species, 18 amphibious species, and 38 reptiles species.
  • 213 bird species, of which 22 are considered endangered.

Ecosystem services

Coatepeque Lake provides a rich habitat for various species and contributes to human development through fishing and tourism. The Laguna Verde and the Laguna Ninfas are other bodies of water that provide important environmental services such as fish habitat and recharging areas for the watershed. Los Volcanes Complex consists of 2,184 hectares and is one of the most beautiful landscapes and highly visited tourist sites of the country.

Coffee forests are the predominate vegetation of the landscape and form part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, contributing to the movement of wildlife.


Disorganized tourism has generated problems with contamination. Tourists leave additional garbage in the area causing the deterioration of local habitats and infrastructure.

As in other natural areas, the extraction of natural resources for human use is the largest environmental concern. Resources most affected include firewood, vines, epiphytes, orchids, moss and volcanic materials.

Farming activities such as the harvest of sugar cane increase the area’s vulnerability to forest fires.


environmental projects funded


project implementing organizations


years of fundraising and resourcing for conservation

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