Rainforest of the Sea
It makes sense that the first highlighted topic should be the amazing "rainforest of the sea" that defines the environment of Ambergris Caye: the coral reef. Over 500 million years ago in warm tropical climates coral reefs formed. Today, coral reefs cover less than 0.2% of the ocean floor, but contain approximately 25% of the ocean's species. Approximately 5000 species of reef fish, and more than 2,500 species of coral have been identified…thus they are referred to as "rainforests" for their vast diversity of life. Reefs are formed when hundreds of hard coral colonies grow next to and on top of each other.
Since coral polyps grow in nutrient-poor water, they have great ecological significance because they provide a habitat for communities of fish and other marine life in waters that might otherwise be desolate and unproductive. In addition, as most San Pedro locals know, coral reefs provide food and protection from waves (Hurricane Mitch!). Despite their great importance and beauty, coral reefs are still being threatened around the world by human activities such as pollution, over fishing, boat groundings, and general carelessness of snorkelers and divers. In San Pedro, improvements such as a modified sewage system, the addition of mooring buoys for boats to anchor onto, and well-trained tour guides have help stave off major damage to our coral reef.
Check out Reef Brief next time when the mystery of coral spawning will be unraveled.
This Reef Brief was written by Ann Hayden.
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