A new study on mangroves is being undertaken to decipher how the mangrove coverage in Belize has changed in the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site, as well as across Belize, between 1980 and 2017. The three month research finally ended on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 when the researchers presented their findings.
Researchers used NASA satellite imagery to study the changes within the mangrove ecosystems. According to researcher Dr. Emil Cherrington, Belize maintains about 96% of its mangrove cover from 1980.
The good news is that within the Barrier Reef Reserve System, there has been minimal clearing of mangroves with only one of the seven protected sites, the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, showing changes in mangrove cover. The bad news is that there are still some coastal areas outside of the reef system that show a significant decrease in mangrove cover because of development, and according to Dr. Cherrington, these areas include Belize City, Ambergris Caye, and Placencia.
Amanda Burgos Acosta, Executive Director, Belize Audubon Society, reiterated that within the reef system, there was news to celebrate. “Our specific interest was the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System World Heritage Site, which we saw in the study is very positive. What we saw is that there’s very minimal change in mangrove since the inscription on the danger list. So, this positive result has been shared with the relevant government entities.” According to Acosta, those agencies are submitting the findings to UNESCO and she is hopeful that the results will help to get Belize off the danger list.
Mangroves have a protective characteristic; they protect shorelines, all while decreasing the effects of storm surge and winds to protect the coast. They also improve the quality of water, mitigate erosion, and act as a place where fish and other marine life can grow. Despite being characteristically protective, mangroves often suffer the most when a hurricane or other storm threatens the coast and nation.