The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef: Environmental Threats

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The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef: Environmental Threats. Grace Adams. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef:. 2 nd largest barrier reef in the world Extends from the Yucatan Peninsula, along the coasts of Belize, to the Bay Islands of Honduras Home to over 500 species of fish - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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  • The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef: Environmental ThreatsGrace Adams

  • The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef:2nd largest barrier reef in the worldExtends from the Yucatan Peninsula, along the coasts of Belize, to the Bay Islands of HondurasHome to over 500 species of fishThreatened by many environmental factors

  • Threats: Global Warming

  • Rising TemperaturesRecent years have had record setting temperatures (2005 was hottest year since accurate records) During these summer months, ocean temperatures rise 1-2CAverage Northern Hemisphere temperatures have risen 0.6-0.8C in the last 10 yearsWarm waters cause stress to corals:Rising ocean levels (melting ice sheets)Increased hurricanes Increased coral bleachingIncreased acidity

  • HurricanesLargest most destructive hurricanes have occurred in the last 10 yearsBecoming more frequent and severeStronger hurricanes result in more wave damage and flooding, stressing coralcoral cover is reduced by approximately 17%, in the Caribbean in the year following a hurricane impact

  • Coral BleachingWarm waters cause large-scale bleachingAverage of 25% of coral bleached in each temperature hot spot in 2005Occurs when symbiotic zooxanthellae (algae) that provides much of the energy for coral growth, and coral reef growth is expelled from host animal.Bleached corals starve and are more susceptible to disease Many bleached corals eventually die out

  • Ocean AcidificationParallel to climate changeIncreased concentrations of CO2 dissolve in sea water, reducing pH levelsReduces corals ability to grow carbonate skeletonsResults in slower growth and is more vulnerable to erosionBy the end of this century, acidification may continue at a rate of 100 times faster

  • Threats: Fishing

  • Fishing Main industry in Central America and Caribbean Overfishing, illegal fishing, and fishing with inappropriate gear threatens natural resources, fish species, and coral

  • OverfishingCommercial fishing industry is expanding due to better technology and increased demandOver-exploitation of many targeted species such as shrimp, sharks, and lobster Causes ecological extinctions and loss of ecosystem functionOf Belizes 554 marine and 237 reef-associated fish species,21 of these species are threatened and 14 are protected under existing treaties and conventions

  • Illegal FishingIllegal fishing issues include: Fishing with scuba gearUse of nets along reefsUse of traps outside reefsTaking conch or lobster below the legal size limitFishing outside of closed seasonsAlthough many Central American countries have laws to prevent illegal fishing, they are not adequately enforced

  • Cyanide FishingUsed to stun reef fish in order to collect themInexpensive and effective Illegal in many countriesCauses damage to surrounding coral reefsDestroys thousands of hectares each yearCauses coral bleachingKills both targeted and non-targeted fish as well as corals, invertebrates, eggs, larvae, and microorganisms

  • Protective Measures

  • Global WarmingEnergy reduction to limit climate change and greenhouse effects

    FishingEnforce laws and create and infrastructure to monitor large reef areas When at a reef, do not touch the coral or take pieces homeWorld Heritage Sites and marine reserves protect important areas

  • BibliographyPlaya del Carmen. (2007). Mesoamerican barrier reef. Retrieved from

    Coral Reef Aliance, Initials. (2010). Caribbean/latin american crsd sites. Retrieved from

    Gardner, T.A., Cote, I.M., Gill, J.A., Grant, A., & Watkinson, A.R. (2005). Hurricanes and caribbean coral reefs: impacts, recovery. Unpublished manuscript, School of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Retrieved from

    Wilkinson, C., Souter, D. (2008). Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005.Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, 152 p. Retrieved from

  • BibliographyWorld Resources Institute, . (2005). Belize coastal threat atlas [p. 9]. Retrieved from

    Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy, . (2004, November 15). Petition to the world heritage committee requesting inclusion of belize barrier reef reserve system. Retrieved from

    McClellan, K. (2008). Coral degradation through destructive fishing practices. The encyclopedia of earth. Retrieved July 9, 2011, from

    Novi Meadows, . (2002). Coral reef. Retrieved from