Saving the Belize Barrier Reef

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Off the Caribbean coast of Belize, between Mexico and Guatemala, lies the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest reef in the northern and western hemispheres. The reef is home to many species of coral reefs, coastal lagoons, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests. It provides a habitat for a large number of fish species and many endangered animals. With global warming issues, local activities, and mass tourism threatening the very existence of the reef, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO ) has made the Belize Barrier Reef part of the World Heritage list, which preserves and protects the cultural and natural heritage around the world.
Diversity of Life Forms The Belize Barrier Reef is habitat to a diverse group of animal species. Over 500 species of fish have been recorded to live in its waters. Endangered species such as the marine turtle, manatee, and the American marine crocodile all depend on the reef for shelter, food, and nesting areas. Four species of dolphins have been sighted, one being the bottlenosed dolphin, and several species of sharks. Approximately 392 species of birds have made Belize their sanctuary, and thousands more depend on the lagoons during the migration and breeding season. In 1982, there were 178 different species of vascular plants identified from the Belize coast, 32 of which are non-native. Mangroves are dominant among many of the southern cayes, while shrubs and coconut trees also thrive in the subtropical temperatures. The barrier reef holds around 247 species of marine plant life. Most dominant are the seagrass beds, shoalgrass, and manatee grass which host living organisms and trap sediments and nutrients to the ocean floor. The Belize reef system is diverse in the species it supports. Studies have reported 66 species of scleratinian corals and 36 species of soft corals. Also identified are 45 species of hydroids and 350 species of mollusks. Also diverse in this system, is the many species



References: Gonzalez, C. (2009). "Clear and Present Danger for the Reef". Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://www.elaw.org/node/3874. Tourtellot, J.B. (2009). "A reef takes a dive: the score for Belize 's great coral barrier has plunged in less than three years. What gives?." National Geographic Traveler, 24(2), 47. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from Gale PowerSearch database. UNEP-UCMC (2008) Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://www.unep-wcmc.org/sites/wh/pdf/Belize.pdf. World Heritage (2009) World Heritage in Danger. Retrieved January 23, 2010 from http://whc.unesco.org/en/158

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