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.