Mexico currently has 144 nature reserves covering approximately 9.1% of its land area. These reserves were established for a variety of reasons - often unrelated to the protection of biodiversity. In 2000 in response to a growing concern about the lack of organized conservation reserve planning to protect the important threatened biological and physical features of Mexico, the Mexican Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) proposed the establishment of 151 new reserves for Mexico covering 51,429,500 ha. We compiled a GIS analysis using digital thematic maps of physical and biological features to examine how the existing and proposed reserves serve to protect the biodiversity and physical features of the country. Using a conservation target of placing a minimum of 12% of the land area of each important biophysical feature in nature reserves, we found that the 144 existing nature reserves covering 18 million ha (9% of the country) only meet that target for elevation ranges >3000 m and areas with poor soils. These mountainous areas represent less than 1% of the country. The gaps in the existing nature reserves network occur mainly at lower and intermediate elevations (<3000 m) areas with xeric, tropical, and temperate ecosystems, and high productivity soils. The areas proposed by CONABIO increase the proportion of protected lands in the country to over 27% and most of the conservation targets for geophysical features, and land cover, categories are met. Whether this area would be sufficient to maintain viable populations and ecological integrity of species and ecosystems is unknown. Even with the new reserves, low elevation coastal lands would be below the conservation target in the nature reserves. To include a representative sample of these lands would be difficult as these are the same areas where the majority of people live. ?? 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.