Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The coastal area of Belize is an outstanding natural system consisting of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and estuaries. The system’s seven sites illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development and are a significant habitat for threatened species, including marine turtles, manatees and the American marine crocodile.

Réseau de réserves du récif de la barrière du Belize

La région côtière du Belize est un système naturel exceptionnel qui comprend le plus grand récif-barrière de l’hémisphère Nord, des atolls bordiers, plusieurs centaines de cayes de sable, des forêts de mangroves, des lagons côtiers et des estuaires. Les sept sites du réseau illustrent les étapes de l’évolution des récifs et constituent un habitat important pour des espèces menacées telles que les tortues marines, les lamantins et le crocodile marin d’Amérique.

نظام محميات الحاجز المرجاني في بليز

تشكّل منطقة بليز الساحلية نظاماً طبيعياً استثنائياً يحتوي على أكبر حاجز مرجاني في النصف الشمالي للكرة الأرضية، وعلى جزر مرجانية متاخمة، ومئات الجزر الرملية المنخفضة، وغابات المنغروف، والبحيرات المرجانية الساحلية ومصابّ الأنهر. تجسّد المواقع السبعة لهذا النظام مراحل التطور الذي شهدته الشُعب كما تؤمّن ملاذاً آمناً لأجناس مهددة بالإنقراض كالسلاحف البحرية، وخراف البحر، والتمساح البحري الأميركي.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Резерваты Барьерного Рифа Белиза

Прибрежная зона Белиза – это ценнейшая экосистема, включающая самый крупный барьерный риф Северного полушария, а также атоллы, несколько сотен песчаных островков, мангровые заросли, лагуны и речные эстуарии. Семь участков данного объекта наследия иллюстрируют эволюционное развитие рифов. Здесь встречается целый ряд редких видов, к примеру, морские черепахи, ламантин и американский острорылый крокодил.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Red de reservas del arrecife de barrera de Belice

La región costera de Belice es un sistema natural único en su género, que comprende el mayor arrecife de barrera del hemisferio norte, atolones costeros, centenares de cayos arenosos, bosques de mangles, lagunas litorales y estuarios. Las siete reservas de la red ilustran las diferentes etapas de evolución del arrecife y son un hí¡bitat importante para algunas especies animales en peligro como las tortugas marinas, los manatí­es y el cocodrilo marino de América.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Barrièrerif reservaat van Belize

Het kustgebied van Belize is een prachtig natuurgebied dat bestaat uit het grootste Barrièrerif van het noordelijk halfrond, offshore atollen, enkele honderden zandbanken, mangrove bossen, lagunes en estuaria. Tussen het vasteland en het rif is een uitgebreide offshore lagune die toeneemt in breedte en diepte. In het noorden is het water 2 tot 3 meter diep. Ten zuiden van Belize City verdiept de lagune zich en is een kanaal ontstaan met een diepte van 65 meter in de Golf van Honduras. Het gebied illustreert de evolutionaire geschiedenis van het rif en is een belangrijke habitat voor bedreigde diersoorten, zoals zeeschildpadden, zeekoeien en de Amerikaanse zeekrokodil.


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Justification for Inscription

The Committee inscribed the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System under natural criteria (vii), (ix) and (x) as the largest barrier reef in the Northern hemisphere, as a serial nomination consisting of seven sites. The Reef illustrates a classic example of reefs through fringing, barrier and atoll reef types.

Long Description

The coastal area of Belize is an outstanding natural system consisting of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and estuaries. The system's seven sites illustrate the evolutionary history of reef development and are a significant habitat for threatened species.

The reef extends from the border with Mexico to the north, to near the Guatemalan border to the south. The Belize submarine shelf and its barrier reef, represent the world second largest reef system and the largest reef complex in the Atlantic-Caribbean area. Outside the barrier, there are three large atolls: Turneffe Islands, Lighthouse Reef and Glover's Reef.

Between the mainland and the barrier reef is an extensive offshore lagoon which increases in width and depth from north to south. In the north, water depth averages 2-3 m over a flat, featureless bottom 20-25 km wide. South of Belize City, the shelf gradually deepens forming a channel between the mainland and the outer platform, reaching a depth of 65 m in the Gulf of Honduras.

The approximately 450 sand and mangrove cays confined within the barrier and atolls range in size from small, ephemeral sand spits to larger, permanent islands capable of sustaining human settlements.

A total of 178 terrestrial plants and 247 taxa of marine flora has been described from the area. There are over 500 species of fish, 65 scleritian corals, 45 hydroids and 350 molluscs in the area, plus a great diversity of sponges, marine worms and crustaceans. The area harbours a number of species of conservation concern, including West Indian manatee, green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle and American crocodile. The West Indian manatee population (300-700 individuals) is probably the largest in the world. Several bird species of conservation concern are found in the cayes and atolls. Major seabird and waterbird colonies include those of the red-footed booby (3,000-4,000 individuals) on Half-Moon Caye, brown booby on Man O'War Caye, and common noddy on Glover's Reef. Other noteworthy breeding birds are the brown pelican and the magnificent frigate bird. The Belize coral reef ecosystem is distinctive in the Western Hemisphere on account of its size, its array of reef types and the luxuriance of corals thriving in such pristine conditions. The are several unusual geophysical features including the nearby contiguous shelf edge barrier reef, the complex maze of patch reefs and faros in a relatively deep shelf lagoon, the unusual of reef types in a small area, the presence of atolls, and the large offshore mangrove cays.

Shell middens at Mayan sites along the coast and on the cayes provide evidence that the reefs were used for fishing some 2500 years ago. Between 300 BC and AD 900, the coastal waters were probably used extensively for fishing by the Mayans, and trading posts, ceremonial centres and burial grounds were established on the cayes. With the decline of the Maya civilization, the reef's resources probably went largely unused for a number of centuries, although early Spanish explorers used the cayes to repair their boats and collect fresh water. By the early 17th century, the coastal water of Belize had however become a heaven for pirates and buccaneers, largely from Britain, who looted Spanish and British trading ships and survived on the abundant marine resources available. Subsequently, many of the pirates, as well as Puritan traders from the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, settled in the cayes, becoming fishermen and plantation owners. Since then, there have been a number of waves of immigration into the coastal area, including the Garifuna people, immigrants from Mexico, and most recently North Americans and other foreigners who have been lured by the beauty of the reef and its surroundings and have taken up residence in the cayes.