Aerial view showing the structure of the Belize Barrier Reef - back reef, crest, spur and groove, drop-off, deep water
The Belize Barrier Reef is not a solid wall of dead coral. It is a living, growing, exceedingly complex ecosystem, with spurs of coral mounds built over the millenia rising out of the depths into the surf line, then the bits and pieces broken by the wave action is pulverized into sand and carried into the back reef, where countless forms of life rise again as patch reefs, small coral colonies and seagrass. Over millions of years, this system has evolved to withstand hurricanes, slowly changing water levels, even slowly changing temperatures. But the quick destructive power of man is a threat life in Belize is only now experiencing, and it is to be determined if the great barrier reef of Belize, or Belizeans will adapt to the stresses we put on it.
Photographs by Tony Rath
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