Central America: Islands and cays off the coast of Belize

This Belizean coast mangrove ecoregion runs along the Caribbean Coast; beginning in Guatemala encompassing the mangrove habitat along the shores of the Bahía de Annatique then proceeds all along the coast of Belize stopping before the border with Mexico. The climate is tropical with a rainy season from May to February and mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 mm in the north to over 4,000 mm in the south. Spring tidal amplitudes range between 0.2 and 0.3 m. The Belizean coastal mangroves are found near saltmarshes, in depressions behind river levees and beach ridges, and at river mouths (Spalding 1997). The mangrove vegetation of this ecoregion is a important protector of the shoreline from erosion caused by tropical storms that enter the Caribbean Sea. The main types of mangrove vegetation includes red mangrove (Rhizopora mangle), black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa), and the associated but not specifically mangrove buttonwood tree (Conocarpus erectus). A large population of West Indian manatees (Trichecus manatus) is found here. Many species of birds from North America spend winter in this mangrove ecoregion and some of the Yucatan peninsula endemic avifauna ranges down into this ecoregion as well as other faunal species, which utilize this habitat for its abundant resources especially the availability of freshwater even during the dry season. Birds that may visit mangroves include Yucatan parrot (Amazona xantholora), brown jay (Cyanocorax morio), Yucatan jay (C. yucatanicus), black catbird (Dumetella glabrirostris), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), great kiskadee (Pitangus sulfuratus) and blue-gray tanager (Thraupis episcopus). Even black howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) are found in the riverine mangroves in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park.. The Burdon Canal Nature Reserve in Belize City contains mangrove forests and is habitat for numerous bird species and threatened crocodiles while the Shipstern Nature Reserve includes mangrove shorelines as well as a saline lagoon system and hardwood forests. Fauna also found throughout the ecoregion includes mammals; paca (Agouti paca), ocelot (Felis pardalis), coatimundi (Nasua narica), jaguar (Pantera onca), Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and reptiles; boa (Boa constrictor), Crocodylus acutus, C. moreletti, green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), loggerhead (Caretta caretta), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi). Current threats to this unique ecoregion include overfishing, deforestation and land use change which have and will continue to lead to coastal erosion and sedimentation, sewage, expansion of towns in the coastal zone, industrial discharge in localized areas, dumping of trash into mangroves, and oil spills. Anticipated problems include those associated with further development of aquaculture, oil exploration, and further coastal development. Belize City was originally a small mangrove peninsula (Harborne et al. 2000).

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    1,100 square miles
  • Status
  • Habitats


Location and General Description

Biodiversity Features

Current Status

Types and Severity of Threats

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
Classification and linework for all mangrove ecoregions in Latin America and the Caribbean follow the results of a mangrove ecoregion workshop (1994) and subsequent report (Olson et al. 1996).

Belize Audobon Society. 1999. Coastal Treasures of Belize. http://www.belizenet.com/coastal/4.html

Ecoregional Workshop: A Conservation Assessment of Mangrove Ecoregions of Latin America and the Caribbean. 1994. Washington D.C., World Wildlife Fund.

Harborne, A.R., McField M.D., Delaney E.K. 2000. Belize. In: C. Sheppard, editor, Seas at the millenium: An environmental evaluation. Elsevier Science Ltd., New York, Oxford

Olson, D.M., E. Dinerstein, G. Cintrón, and P. Iolster. 1996. A conservation assessment of mangrove ecosystems of Latin America and the Caribbean. Final report for The Ford Foundation. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C.

Spalding, Mark, Francois Nlasco and Colin Field.1997. World mangrove atlas. Smith Settle, Otley, West Yrokshire, UK.

Prepared by: Christine Burdette and Sylvia Tognetti
Reviewed by: In process


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