The Underwater Treasures of Belize
Belize, a country in distant Central America is a land of a thick rain forest, Maya ruins and beneath the turquoise Caribbean waters that washes its coast lays one of the most extensive barrier reef systems in the world. Off the beaten touristic path, the destination has been put on the map of environmentalists a few decades ago as an endangered UNESCO Heritage Site, and for the looks of it will likely remain on the list of threatened sites.
Reefs around the world are threatened by damage, disease and habitat destruction, but the astonishing biodiversity of Belize Barrier Reef was one of the reasons seven of its areas got the protection of UNESCO, forming Belize Barrier Reserve System in 2009. Last month the World Heritage Center recommended that the reef stays on the endangered list as some key issues remain unresolved despite the efforts of Belize.
Pristine Belize Barrier Reef is not only the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, the seven protected sites of the system illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development and are a home for threatened species. Why care about reefs? Well, for one thing, biodiversity is a concept vital to our survival, to say the least and reefs like the one in Belize are natural habitats of many species. In addition, reefs are often a centerpiece of many communities and act as natural barriers against storm events, which is especially important in our changing climate. Every year, the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs to millions of people are estimated in hundreds of billion dollars, but the question in environmentalist community remains: ‘When will we stop forgetting that everything is interconnected in nature.’