Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Years of Smithsonian Research in Belize
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CARIBBEAN CORAL REEF ECOSYSTEMS PROGRAM CCRE Celebrating 35 Years of Collaboration in Belize Research, Conservation, and Education Why Belize? Acknowledgments In the late 1960s, scientists at the Smithsonian's Department of Fisheries (particularly, Winston Miller, Vincent Gillett, Noel Jacobs, Beverly Wade, James Azueta) • Coastal Zone Management Unit (particularly, Janet Gibson) • Belize Meteorology Department (Frank National Museum of Natural History discovered early Panton, Albert Jones) • Belize Audubon Society • University College of Belize • Norma Bowman • Therese & Tony Rath • Alice Bowman • Pelican Beach Resort Staff • Our Many Friends in Belize • In Fond Memory of signs of decline in many Caribbean coastal H.T.A. ("Sir Henry") Bowman and Henry ("Junior") Bowman. environments and started to look for the "perfect" reef in the region to study. After hundreds of surveys we Schools participating in our Mangrove Conservation and Training Program Corozal Comunity College • Edward P. York High School • Escuela Secundaria Mexico • Excelsior determined that the reefs of Belize had the greatest High School • Gwen Lizarraga High School • Orange Walk Technical High School Muffles College • structural and biological diversity, the most reef types Nazarene High School • Pallotti High School • San Pedro High School • Stann Creek Ecumenical High School • St. Catherine's Academy • St. John's College • Toledo Community College • and species, and a pristine environment only mildly University College of Belize impacted by local fisheries. The field laboratory on Carrie Bow Cay was finally established in 1972. Our Program - CCRE What exactly is an ecosystem? In one sentence, an ecosystem consists of communities that are tied together by environmental conditions and exchange of matter and energy. In order to understand the composition and workings of an ecosystem such as a coral reef, we need to observe, study, measure, and interpret all aspects, including its geological past. This knowledge allows us to detect changes caused by natural cycles or events, or by humans, and to predict under what set of circumstances the system will become unbalanced or collapse. Coral reefs are a beautiful part of our environment and provide us with enormous benefits such as food, medicine, and economic gains through trade and tourism. A coral reef is a very complex system, therefore we also need to study the associated islands, seagrass meadows, sandy bottoms, even the "empty" looking blue water off-shore. Research - What we study Topography, origin, geological development, and oceanography of the reef and its numerous islands; biodiversity, evolution, and ecology of reef, mangrove, and seagrass species and communities; indicators and impact of environmental imbalance on reefs and mangroves caused by natural stresses or humans, possibly leading to problems that will ultimately hurt or irreversibly damage reefs, our most precious, productive, and esthetic tropical coastal resource. Education – Investing in the future CCRE staff and associates initiated and conducted numerous educational activities, which include volunteer training, highly successful “mangrove conservation through education” courses, preparing of field guides and manuals, and advising and participating in doctoral dissertation research. Outlook: You can learn more about the Program visiting http://www.si.edu/marinescience/ Photograph Credits & Design: C. Clark, C. Feller, D. Hurlbert, A. O’Dea, T. Ophishinski, C. Piantoni, R. Ritson-Williams, R. Rotjan, K. Ruetzler, M.K. Ryan, J. Sanchez, C. Ziegler.