National Geographic Magazine Features Barrier Reef Near Belize!

National Geographic magazine, one of the world’s foremost authorities on natural and man-made wonders around the globe, is featuring the Mesoamerican Reef system in their October 2012 edition of the magazine.  The magazine is read by over 60 million people per month, and their website garners over 20 million unique visitors per month, so the potential exposure for Belize and the reef is massive!

The article, about 2500 words long, mainly covers life under the sea in the various ecosystems that develop on the reef and near the reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  The article also gives prominence to the annual snapper spawning near Placencia, Belize, which attracts visits from the magnificent and giant whale sharks who come to feed on the spawn.  This annual event occurs at the full moon of Easter and is a very popular draw for scuba divers from around the world who relish the rare opportunity to swim alongside such  huge undersea creatures.

Here is the beginning of the article with link to the rest:


In the mangroves off the east coast of Central America, at the edge of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world is divided in two: the above and the below. As we killed the engines and poled the skiff from the hot April sun into the shade of the forest, Will Heyman, my marine biologist companion, and I gazed into the simplicity above. We saw the green crowns of one of the least diverse of all tropical forests, where there is often but a single species of tree, the red mangrove.

Salinity, storm waves, and oxygen-poor mud discourage understory growth in the mangroves, so there was little beneath the canopy for us to see. The occasional orchid. Rarely, a vine. A troop of fiddler crabs guarding holes in the mud. A big mangrove crab low on a trunk. Some insects. A tricolored heron perched on the stilt of a mangrove root.

I leaned over the gunwale to sample the mud around the roots, scooping up sherds of pottery. The mangroves of the Mesoamerican Reef were once at the fringe of the ancient Maya civilization. I contemplated slipping a souvenir into my pocket—with such a lode here, what possible harm? “Strictly catch-and-release,” Heyman said. With a splashing of jettisoned sherds, we poled to another spot. There, in the still water, we witnessed the miracle of the below.

At the waterline the roots in this forest blossom downward, expanding all shaggy-bearded with mats of algae, and slender brittle stars, and boxy starfish, and the little translucent vases of the filter feeders called tunicates—their “tunics” orange or purple or white—and soft corals and oysters and sponges in still more hues. Nothing here goes unadorned.

Mangroves are crucial nurseries. Schools of small fry shift away through the Moorish architecture of arched roots, each school a pale cloud of translucent fish. The palest clouds are hardly there at all, composed of hatchlings no bigger than the smallest mosquito wigglers. These living motes are too small to name. Are they destined for adulthood in a sea grass bed, or coral reef, or open ocean, or right here in the mangroves? Too soon to tell.

Read the rest of the article here: