|Belize Barrier Reef|
The Barrier Reef is clearly visible along the eastern coast of Belize in the Caribbean Sea.
|Nearest city||Belize City, Belize|
|Official name||Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System|
|Criteria||vii, ix, x|
|Designated||1996 (20th session)|
|Region||Latin America and the Caribbean|
The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 meters (980 ft) offshore in the north and 40 kilometers (25 mi) in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mi) long section of the 900-kilometer (560 mi) Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya and down to Honduras, making it the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is Belize's top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. It is also vital to the country's fishing industry.
Charles Darwin described it as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies" in 1842.
In addition to its barrier reef, it also boasts three distinct Caribbean atolls: Turneffe Atoll, Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef. Lighthouse Reef is the most easterly diving area in Belize, it is home to the Great Blue Hole, made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1970; Turneffe Atoll lies directly to the east of Belize City and is the nearest of the atolls to the capital. These different reefs provide diverse scuba diving opportunities that include walls, pinnacles and reef flats that are located throughout an enormous area of sea.
The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and animals:
With 90% of the reef still needing to be researched, it is estimated that only 10% of all species have been discovered.
A large portion of the reef is protected by the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which includes seven marine reserves, 450 cayes, and three atolls. It totals 960 square kilometres (370 sq mi) in area, including:
In 1996 the reserve system was designated a World Heritage site due to its vulnerability and the fact that it contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity (according to criteria VII, IX, and X).
Belize became the first country in the world to completely ban bottom trawling in December 2010. km of the Barrier Reef.In December 2015, Belize banned offshore oil drilling within 1
Despite these protective measures, the reef remains under threat from oceanic pollution as well as uncontrolled tourism, shipping, and fishing. Other threats include hurricanes, along with global warming and the resulting increase in ocean temperatures,which causes coral bleaching. It is claimed by scientists that over 40% of Belize's coral reef has been damaged since 1998.
The Belize Barrier Reef has been affected by mass-bleaching events. The first mass bleaching occurred in 1995, with an estimated mortality of 10 percent of coral colonies, according to a report by the Coastal Zone Management Institute in Belize. A second mass-bleaching event occurred, when Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998. Biologists observed a 48 percent reduction in live coral cover across the Belize reef system.
Usually, it is hard to distinguish whether the reason for coral bleaching is human activities or natural reasons such as storms or bacterial fluctuations. But in the case of the Belize Barrier Reef, many factors which make the distinction difficult do not apply. Human population in this area is much more sparse than the corresponding areas near other coral reefs, so the human activity and pollution are much lower compared to other coral reefs and the Belize reef system is in a much more enclosed area.
When coral bleaching occurs, a large part of the coral dies, and the remaining part of the ecosystem begins the process of repairing the damage. But the chances of recovery are low, as corals that are bleached become much more vulnerable to disease. Disease often kills more corals than the bleaching event itself. With continuous bleaching, the coral reef will have little to no chance of recovery.
San Pedro is a town on the southern part of the island of Ambergris Caye in the Belize District of the nation of Belize, in Central America. According to 2015 mid-year estimates, the town has a population of about 16,444. It is the second-largest town in the Belize District and largest in the Belize Rural South constituency. The once sleepy fishing village was granted the status of a town in 1984.
The Gulf or Bay of Honduras is a large inlet of the Caribbean Sea, indenting the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. From north to south, it runs for approximately 200 km from Dangriga, Belize, to La Ceiba, Honduras.
The Cayos Cochinos or Cochinos Cays consist of two small islands and 13 more small coral cays situated 30 kilometres (19 mi) northeast of La Ceiba on the northern shores of Honduras. Although geographically separate, they belong to the Bay Islands department and are part of Roatán municipality. The population numbered 108 at the 2001 census. The total land area measures about 2 km2 (0.8 sq mi).
The Great Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize. It lies near the center of Lighthouse Reef, a small atoll 70 km (43 mi) from the mainland and Belize City. The hole is circular in shape, 318 m (1,043 ft) across and 124 m (407 ft) deep. It was formed during several episodes of quaternary glaciation when sea levels were much lower. Analysis of stalactites found in the Great Blue Hole shows that formation took place 153,000; 66,000; 60,000; and 15,000 years ago. As the ocean began to rise again, the cave was flooded. The Great Blue Hole is a part of the larger Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), also popularly known as the Great Mayan Reef or Great Maya Reef, is a marine region that stretches over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from Isla Contoy at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula down to Belize, Guatemala and the Bay Islands of Honduras. The reef system includes various protected areas and parks including the Belize Barrier Reef, Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park, Hol Chan Marine Reserve (Belize), Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, and the Cayos Cochinos Marine Park. Belize's coastline, including the Belize Barrier Reef, is home to approximately 30% of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.
Hol Chan Marine Reserve is a marine reserve close to Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize. It covers approximately 18 km² (4,448 acres) of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forest. Hol Chan is Mayan for "little channel".
Caye Chapel is a small, private island in Belize, 16 miles (26 km) north-northeast of Belize City and 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Caye Caulker. It was once owned by Isaiah Emmanuel Morter, Belize's first African millionaire.
Tourism in Belize has grown considerably recently, and it is now the second largest industry in the nation. Belizean Prime Minister Dean Barrow has stated his intention to use tourism to combat poverty throughout the country. The growth in tourism has positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry. The results for Belize's tourism-driven economy have been significant, with the nation welcoming almost one million tourists in a calendar year for the first time in its history in 2012.
Laughing Bird Caye is an island off the coast of Placencia, Belize. On 21 December 1991, Laughing Bird Caye National Park was declared. It is spread over an area of 1.8 acres (0.73 ha). The island is named after a population of laughing gulls which previously bred there.
Janet Gibson is a biologist and zoologist from Belize. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1990 for her efforts on conservation of the marine ecosystems along the Belizean coast, in particular the barrier reef system. The Belize Barrier Reef was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996, through efforts of Gibson and others. She is the current director of the Belize Wildlife Conservation Society.
Bacalar Chico National Park and Marine Reserve (BCNPMR) is a protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the northern part of Ambergris Caye in Belize.
Human impact on coral reefs is significant. Coral reefs are dying around the world. Damaging activities include coral mining, pollution, overfishing, blast fishing, the digging of canals and access into islands and bays. Other dangers include disease, destructive fishing practices and warming oceans. Factors that affect coral reefs include the ocean's role as a carbon dioxide sink, atmospheric changes, ultraviolet light, ocean acidification, viruses, impacts of dust storms carrying agents to far-flung reefs, pollutants, algal blooms and others. Reefs are threatened well beyond coastal areas. Climate change, such as warming temperatures, causes coral bleaching, which if severe kills the coral.
Glover's Reef is a partially submerged atoll located off the southern coast of Belize, approximately 45 kilometres from the mainland. It forms part of the outermost boundary of the Belize Barrier Reef, and is one of its three atolls, besides Turneffe Atoll and Lighthouse Reef.
Mexico Rocks is a shallow patch reef complex located off the far northern tip of Ambergris Caye, and is part of the Belize Barrier Reef system in the Caribbean Sea. The site consists of approximately 100 Holocene patch reefs clustered on a Pleistocene ridge of limestone and is composed predominantly of boulder star corals. The reef has accumulated in shallow water, about 2.5 to 5 metres deep, over the last 420 years, under static sea level conditions. The site was recommended for designation as a marine preserve in 1978, and was approved in 2015 as a part of the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. The reef is popular among snorkelers and SCUBA divers, and it is seen as an important addition to Ambergris Caye's ecotourism attractions.
Half Moon Caye is an island and natural monument of Belize located at the southeast corner of Lighthouse Reef Atoll. This natural monument was the first nature reserve to have been established in Belize under the National Park Systems Act in 1981 and first marine protected area in Central America. This is also Belize's oldest site of wildlife protection since it was first designated as a bird sanctuary in 1924 to protect the habitat of the red-footed booby birds.
Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR) is a protected marine reserve in the central part of Belize's Barrier Reef. It covers approximately 25,980 acres (10,510 ha) lying 36 kilometres (22 mi) off the coast of Placencia. Established in 2003, The reserve comes under the authority of the government's Fisheries Department, but is managed by the Southern Environmental Association, a community-based organisation.
Turneffe Atoll is located southeast of Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, off the coast of Belize in Central America, 20 miles from Belize City. It is one of three atolls of the Belize Barrier Reef, along with Glover's Reef and Lighthouse Reef. It is approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles wide, making it the largest coral atoll in Belize and in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The atoll was officially declared a marine reserve on November 22, 2012.
Mauger Caye Light is an active lighthouse on the atoll island of Mauger Caye, the most northerly in the Turneffe Cays archipelago, which lies 30 km (19 mi) east of the coast of Belize. It is one of a number of lighthouses, which have been built on the cays in the coastal waters of Belize. At the southern end of the Turneffe atoll, is a similar but smaller light known as Caye Bokel. The name Mauger comes from the Creole word for meagre, and Bokel is from the Dutch word for elbow.
Lighthouse Reef is an atoll in the Caribbean Sea, the easternmost part of the Belize Barrier Reef and one of its three atolls, the other two being Turneffe Atoll and Glover's Reef. Lighthouse Reef is located about 80 kilometres (50 mi) southeast of Belize City. The atoll is of oblong shape, approximately 35 kilometres (22 mi) long from north to south, and about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) wide. It forms a shallow sandy lagoon with an area of 120 square kilometres (46 sq mi) and a depth between 2 to 6 metres deep.
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