Research In Order to Protect Belize Reefs For The Future
Coral reefs are the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems in the world. Although reefs account for only 0.2% of the world’s oceans, they provide habitats for 1/3 of all marine species.
Reefs provide many essential commodities, including building material and food, as well as mass employment for thousands of people (through fisheries and tourism). Reefs also act as a natural sea defence, protecting the coastline from storm damage, erosion, and flooding by dissipating wave energy. Associated ecosystems such as seagrass beds and mangroves act as nursery grounds for many species and play an important role in rejuvenating fish stocks.
With all that they provide, coral reefs are one of the most economically valuable ecosystems on earth, being valued at approximately US$375 billion per year. 8% of the world’s population (0.5 billion people) live within 100 km of a coral reef, so great demand is being placed on these resources. The dependence of so many people on coral reefs means it is vital that we protect them. The future of coral reefs world-wide is at risk, due to large-scale threats such as climate change, and smaller-scale human impacts such as coastal development, over-fishing, and pollution (e.g., through agricultural and industrial activities). In order to protect our reefs for the future, designation and effective management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is required in collaboration with a good scientific understanding of the reef ecosystem.