The ninth Natural Resource Management Symposium organized by the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation MSBC was held on Wednesday March 25 at the George Price Center for Peace and Development in the Nation’s Capital. It was an opportunity for some 20 specialists to review their findings on different natural resources management areas, within just an eight hour period; offering a revealing assessment of the status of marine and terrestrial habitats in both Belize and neighboring countries.

According to Roberto Pott, President of the MSBC, the one day event was intended to try and bridge the gap across borders that would facilitate the exchange of technical information as it relates to biodiversity and conservation.

“The primary objective is to get our researchers to present information…a lot of times data and reports stay on desks and on shelves and this is an opportunity to at least get the abstract that is then published widely,” says Roberto Pott.

Presenting information on climate and land use change on Belize’s water resources was Dr. Elma Kay, Science Director for the Environmental Research Institute at the University of Belize. Dr. Elma Kay referred to the 16 watersheds that exist in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and examined the potential effects of erosion and runoff patterns. It has been assessed that just 53.7% of Belize’s surface area for watersheds lie in Belize’s political border. In Dr. Elma Kay’s extrapolations, most of the models are showing diminishing rainfall as a result of climate change. Even as this occurs, the Northern River Watershed is estimated to be exposed to the largest overall increase in runoff. In all watersheds this runoff is directly related and as a consequence to land use changes; with the exception of the Rio Grande watershed.

“The current demand for human consumption [of water] is 0.073% but in 2050 it will have 0.581% or eight and a half times increase in the amount of water needed,” says Dr. Elma Kay.

Changes to Belize’s land use management are coming from commercial scale export agriculture say the experts. So, a balancing act has to occur, to provide sustainable living for Belizeans as well as protecting Belize’s natural resources. A long term solution to this dilemma was provided last Wednesday by Emma Kelly and Sylvia Chang from Duke University in their “Blue Carbon Potential of Belizean Mangroves.”

A comprehensive study by both Duke University students show that there is a lot of locked up carbon in Belize’s mangroves, which can be used as a bargaining chip in the World wide carbon trading market. Both students estimate that for the 72,600 hectares of mangroves in Belize that were growing in 2014, there existed a maximum of 23.3 tera grams (a unit of mass equal to one trillion grams) of Carbon or a minimum of 13.07 tera grams. These mangroves have an estimated value of $3,100,000,000 to $630,000,000 in ‘Blue Carbon.’

Climate change caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emission is a growing International concern. National and international attempts to mitigate the growth in atmospheric concentrations of GHG have resulted in the formation of carbon markets. Currently the carbon market is comprised of a compliance market, made up of emitters who are obligated to reduce their emissions and a voluntary market, in which organizations voluntarily reduce their carbon emissions.

For Belize to tap funds from its ‘Blue Carbon’ in Mangroves and terrestrial forests a number of steps will have to be taken. Belize will need to create a national carbon project, where it is part of a national policy as well as put institutional frameworks in place to manage the carbon benefits says Dr. Elma Kay.

“There would have to be clear ideas of how benefits will be shared, there would have to be clear commitments, for example from the Government in terms of reducing deforestation, there would have to be clear ideas about land tenure…the Mayans land rights case, for example, in the South, that would need to be resolved; so that people know how benefit sharing would occur,” also says Dr. Elma Kay.

Also giving a presentation on human-jaguar conflict in Belize was Sharon Matola, Founding Director of the Belize Zoo as well as Edgar Correa, Jaguar Officer within the Forestry Department. Sharon Matola gave pointers on how we can save the Jaguars for the next generation. According to Sharon Matola, the Jaguars natural prey, the peccary, armadillos and deer are being depleted by hunters. With a scarcity of a food source, explained Sharon Matola, those jaguars that cannot compete with the rest, resort to the standing prey, cattle. Those jaguars rescued by the Belize Zoo show up with shot gun pellets from competing with farmers’ reports, Sharon Matola. As a result the Belize Zoo has set up a rehabilitation program for jaguars. Meanwhile; Edgar Correa also reported to the audience at the George Price Center that he had received some 69 reports of jaguar depredations from May 2013 to September 2014, for which 70% of the reports came from farmers. Edgar Correa said that it is illegal to hunt jaguars and advised that farmers should place lights on their fences, clear the high bush, improve fences and corral their animals in an effort to better protect their cattle.

Participants from the ninth Natural Resource Management Symposium were able to walk away last Wednesday with their prize of pre-prepared abstracts from the Symposium, which had been edited by volunteers, Seleni Cruz and Denver Cayetano. The new data, which has been compiled in booklet form, will hopefully be shared with experts from Belize’s neighboring countries, teachers and students; for they offer a useful snap shot on both the ecological and social systems--for sustainable trans-border resource management.

The Guardian