Mexico and Fireflies

Aug 24, 2016 | written by:

Fireflies’ dance is a fascinating and attractive sight. Since we’re children and 'summer nights' meant 'to transform a glass jar in a natural lantern' trying to figure out the mystery behind the ability of these creatures to light (growing up we’ll learnt that fireflies radiate light when, in the presence of oxygen, there is the oxidation of luciferin, a particular enzyme inside their body). Being bewitched is easy, but in front of an entire forest that magically lights the sensation is even more enchanting, especially if fireflies and their dance saved the forest from deforestation.

It happens in Mexico, Canteada Piedra, a small town located 70 km far from the capital, with the efforts of a small farming community that has managed to revitalize the area thanks to the country and nature tourism. For years they have been forced to cut trees and sell them to paper mills: the only way to live, although in recent years the revenues from the sales were no longer profitable and cut meant supporting deforestation. But the forest was also the house of many fireflies that every night enlightened as bulbs lit all at once. A show that could attract tourists wishful to admire the show of lights in strict silence at sunset.

Genaro Lopez Rueda, the leader of the community, had this idea in 1990, but it remained in progress for years without bringing up to date. Only in 2011, when deforestation threatening more than 2,000 species of fireflies, Piedra Canteada has seen the arrival of the first tourists intrigued by the surprising phenomenon resembling a Christmas party in midsummer. Today Piedra Canteada is a protected park, run by a local cooperative and can attract tourists and academics eager to witness one of the most simple and yet so fascinating spectacles of nature. Now the work proceeds at full speed so that reservations for tents, caravans and accommodation in the area are sold out weeks in advance. But the most important thing is that thanks to tourism, deforestation in Piedra Canteada fell by 60-70%. The 42 families living in the area continue to cut a few trees but now everything is regulated. In addition, each year they plant 50 thousand pine and spruce trees in order to offer a home to more and more fireflies. This success is urging other Mexican communities to do the same and some biologists are helping residents to understand what techniques and eco sustainability systems to be adopted.

A lighting towards improvement.

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