>The Need for Marine Parks

Most visitors to a coral reef are captivated by its awesome beauty and colorful array of marine life.

Dr. Jacque Carter investigates the atrium of a basket sponge in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve.
However, few people are aware that coral reefs also provide subsistence and security for adjacent coastal communities. Barrier reefs provide protection to nearshore areas and coastlines by dispersing wave energy before the waves can reach these fragile and ecologically important habitats.

Coral reefs, their lagoon, and mangrove swamps also play an important ecological role. These habitats provide nursery and feeding grounds for many commercially valuable species. In addition, they act as sinks for terrestrial runoff, supplying abundant nutrients to habitats for many species.

Great Diversity

Finally, the great diversity of coral reef organisms may be important for such future uses as mariculture and medicinal production. Realizing the importance of the coral reef community off Ambergris caye, Belize, the Belize government established the Hol Chan Marine Reserve on May 2, 1987.

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