Belizean Reef mangroves

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The Belizean reef mangrove ecoregion comprises an outstanding natural system, with areas found on islands and cayes off the coast of Belize associated with a 220 km barrier reef and three large coral atolls as well as sea grass beds and coastal lagoons. The reef is interlinked with those in Mexico and Honduras, which together form the Meso-American reef system. Vegetation is predominantly red mangrove (Rhisophora mangle) ranging in size from dwarf to tall and majestic, with some black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) and coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) also present. However, vegetation varies slightly between each habitat patch depending on the individual island or caye. There are two main mangrove associations found in the cayes: C. erectus, R. mangle and L. racemosa on land and periodically inundated; and R. mangle, L. racemosa, A. germinans in permanently inundated areas. Fauna is mainly bird species that also vary but include breeding and nesting sites for great egret (Egretta alba), cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), boat-billed herons (Cochlearius cochlearius), anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), neotropical comorant (Phalacrocorax olivaceus), and white ibis (Eudocimus albus). Within the ecoregion certain mangrove patches stand out such as Little Guana Caye is the only site where white ibis (Eudocimus albus), reddish egret (Dichromanassa rufescens), and tri-coloured heron (Hydranassa tricolor) nest together. Also Man-O-War Caye is the only Belizean nesting site for brown booby (Sula leucogaster). Much of this ecoregion is protected as part of a Belize Barrier Reef Reserve system, a World Heritage Site but not actively monitored allowing some degradation to occur. Threats come from illegal hunting that occurs during nesting season, and occasional feather and/or egg collection. Sugar cane cultivation has extended around the lagoon isolating the site and the introduced black rat (Rattus rattus) takes eggs from booby nests. Other problems include raiding of nesting colonies for young birds and eggs for food by local fisherman, uncontrolled tourist operations causing threat to reefs and booby colony by disturbance. Indiscriminate trampling of visitors through bird colonies interferes with nesting and habitat of the birds. Numerous semi-domesticated dogs also disturb the birds. Increasing numbers of visitors are likely to exceed accommodation capacity and create waste disposal problem. Visitors however are not impacting every part of the ecoregion, mainly larger island and caye areas.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    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).

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

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.

Prepared by: Sylvia Tognetti
Reviewed by: In process


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