Forest CoverTotal forest area: 1,653,000 ha % of land area: 72.5%
Primary forest cover: 612,000 ha % of land area: 26.8% % total forest area: 37.0%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in defor. rate since '90s: n/a Total forest loss since 1990: n/a Total forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Forest ClassificationPublic: n/a Private: n/a Other: n/a Use Production: n/a Protection: n/a Conservation: 37% Social services: n/a Multiple purpose: n/a None or unknown: 63
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 1,653,000 ha Primary: 612,000 ha Modified natural: 1,041,000 ha Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: n/a Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: n/a % of total forest cover: n/a Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: 94 M t Below-ground biomass: 24 M t
Area annually affected byFire: n/a Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 4,000 Critically endangered: 0 Endangered: 11 Vulnerable: 18
Belize has substantial forest cover (probably around 55 percent), a low population density, and a history of protecting its forests. Up until recently, the greatest threat to its rainforests came from small agricultural plots. Although timber has traditionally been important to the economy of Belize, the method of selective cutting practiced by local firms has had a small impact on the forest. There are numerous reserves which protect almost 30 percent of Belize, but these tend to be understaffed and suffer from illegal cutting activities—sometimes by armed gangs.
During the mid-1990s, the government granted 16 long-term logging concessions totaling 200,000 hectares at unusually low rates. In one case, a logging concession of 64,400 hectares bordering the Columbia River Forest Reserve was granted to a Malaysian-owned logging firm, Atlantic Industries, for less than $1.50 per hectare (60 cents per acre).
It is unclear what impact these logging concessions have had on forest cover in Belize because in its most current reports, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) still lists forestry figures from 1990. However, earlier FAO reports suggest that during the 1990s Belize lost an average of 2.3 percent of its forest cover each year, giving it the third highest rate of forest loss in Central America. There are no current estimates as to the amount of forest loss after 2000. Primary forest cover makes up about half the country's total forest.
On a more positive note, Belize has an exceptional eco-tourism industry. Each year the country draws tens of thousands of nature-oriented tourists who come to see its extensive barrier reef—the second largest in the world—and tropical rainforests.
Offshore drilling proposed in Belize's spectacular marine areas
(05/26/2015) The government of Belize has proposed opening up most of the country's marine area, including seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to offshore drilling for oil and gas, according to the Associated Press. Belize currently has a voluntary moratorium on any such drilling.
Innovative community fisheries initiative wins top social entrepreneurship prize
(04/13/2015) A program that helps restore overfished areas through community-based marine conservation has won the Skoll Foundation's top prize for social entrepreneurship. Today the Skoll announced Blue Ventures, which piloted its approach in Madagascar a decade ago before expanding to other regions, was one of four organizations to be honored with the $1.25 million Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship.
Rainforest loss increased in the 2000s, concludes new analysis
(02/25/2015) Loss of tropical forests accelerated roughly 60 percent during the 2000s, argues a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The findings contradict previous research suggesting that deforestation slowed since the 1990s. The study is based on a map of 1990 forest cover developed last year by Do-Hyung Kim and colleagues from the University of Maryland. The map, which includes 34 countries that contain 80 percent of the world's tropical forests, enabled the researchers to establish a consistent baseline for tracking forest cover change across regions and countries over time.
Pollution from fossil fuels decreased rainfall in Central America
(02/10/2015) Fossil fuel pollution may have caused a southern shift in a vital rainfall belt across Central America, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience, potentially leading to drier conditions and droughts in some northern tropical countries. Using data from a single stalagmite in a Belizean cave, the researchers were able to create an accurate record of both rainfall and temperature for the last 450 years.
Emissions from rainforest logging average 16% of those from deforestation
(04/08/2014) Carbon emissions from selective logging operations in tropical rainforests are roughly a sixth of those from outright forest clearing, finds a new study that evaluated 13 forestry concessions in six countries. The study analyzed carbon losses from elements of logging operations, including timber extraction, collateral damage to surrounding vegetation, and logging infrastructure like roads and skid trails.
Mesoamerican Reef needs more local support, says report
(09/13/2013) From massive hotel development through the agriculture industry, humans are destroying the second largest barrier reef in the world: the Mesoamerican Reef. Although global climate change and its effects on reefs via warming and acidification of coastal waters have made recent headlines, local human activities may destroy certain ecosystems before climate change has a chance to do it. The harmful effects of mining, agriculture, commercial development, and fishing in coastal regions have already damaged more than two-thirds of reefs across the Caribbean, in addition to worsening the negative effects of climate change.
Rosewood in Belize: the truth behind the smoke
(02/11/2013) In Belize, the uncontrolled and often illegal harvesting of rosewood has been, and still is, one of the major environmental issues in the country. In March of last year, the government established a moratorium on the export and extraction of rosewood, however illegal harvesting continued. On Friday 11 January, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development made the bold move of burning confiscated illegally cut rosewood flitches.
Oil drilling approved for national park in Belize
(11/20/2012) The Belizean government has approved an application by US Capital Energy to drill exploratory wells for oil in the Sarstoon Temash National Park in southern Belize. The decision is believed to have been taken on November 1st by the National Environmental Assessment Committee (NEAC) of the Department of Environment, but the exact terms of the settlement have not yet been made public. The oil company, backed by US energy investment group Aspect Holdings, has applied to drill at five points in the Sarstoon Temash National Park and adjacent areas.
Deforestation accelerates in Belize
(08/09/2012) Deforestation in Belize has accelerated since late 2010, reports a new satellite-based assessment of the tiny Central American country's forest cover by CATHALAC (the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean).
Oil company blamed for fire in Belize national park
(05/01/2012) At the end of March in southern Belize the sun beats down through blackened trees onto what was the only known low-lying sphagnum moss bog in Central America. Now it is an expanse of ash and pale crusts of burned moss onto which dragonflies settle briefly before passing on. Fire spread through the area at the end of February 2012, and since then reeds have begun to sprout, but otherwise it remains a scene of devastation with no sign that the moss is regenerating.
Belize enacts moratorium on rosewood
(03/20/2012) The Belizean Government has banned the harvesting and export of rosewood with immediate effect, in response to the widespread clearing of the hardwood species for the Asian market. A government statement released on Friday, March 16th claimed the moratorium was necessary "to carry out an orderly assessment of the situation on the ground and as a first response to regulate the timber trade occurring in southern Belize." The government would subsequently institute "a rigorous regulatory framework throughout the country."
Airborne lasers discover undocumented deforestation in Belize park
(03/19/2012) A NASA funded expedition using airborne lasers to study ancient Mayan ruins has also documented widespread illegal deforestation in the Caracol Archaeological Reserve. The lasers found that forest disturbance was actually 58 percent greater than recent satellite surveys showed, according new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Society (TCS). Such deforestation not only imperils biodiversity, carbon storage, and migration routes for Central American species, but could also lead to plundering of the Maya site of Caracol.
Camera traps go under the ocean, seeking sharks
(03/12/2012) Remote camera traps, which have become a hugely important conservation tool on land during the past decade, have now gone underwater. Marine biologists have used underwater video camera traps to compare the population of Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii) in Belize's protected areas versus fishing areas in a new study in the open-access journal PLoS ONE. Conducted from 2005-2010, the study found that reef sharks benefited significantly from conservation areas.
Seismic trails cut by U.S. oil firm in Belizean national park used by illegal loggers
(12/06/2011) In the Belizean rainforest two rangers look up and down a straight path hacked through the jungle and take GPS coordinates, the escorting soldiers lying back in the heat as the coordinates are delivered. These are noted and the patrol resumes, pausing to photograph protected comfra palms that have been cut and laid on the muddy ground, or stretches where the rainforest has been cleared far beyond the permitted width. We are in the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, nearly 42,000 acres of rainforest and red mangrove swamps in southern Belize adjacent to the Guatemalan border, and the park rangers are dealing with a new threat to the biodiversity of the reserve. Rather than searching for illegal loggers from Guatemala, this patrol is monitoring the activities of an American oil company.
Harpy eagles nest in Belize for the first time in over 60 years (pictures)
(01/06/2011) Scientists have confirmed the presence of a harpy eagle nest in the Maya Mountains of Belize. The discovery represents the most northerly breeding pair in the Americas, and signals a comeback for a species which has become locally extinct in much of Central America due to human activity.
Pictures: Belize Zoo devastated by hurricane
(11/15/2010) The world famous Belize Zoo is closed until further notice after suffering a direct hit from Hurricane Richard, which leveled trees and inflicted heavy damage on wire fences. The zoo has send out an urgent plea for building materials and funds to help with recovery. None of the facility's animals or staff were injured.
Belize lost 10,000 ha of forest per year since 1980
(11/07/2010) Forests in Belize have been cleared at a rate of nearly 10,000 hectares per year for the past 30 years, a recent study shows. In 1980, forests covered 79.5% of the land surface of Belize but as of February 2010 it had decreased to 62.7%. The area covered by forests in the country thus went from about 6500 square miles 30 years ago to around 5300 square miles today, losing an area the size of Rhode Island.
New species of glowing mushrooms named after Mozart's Requiem
(10/14/2009) Classical musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, probably never expected his music to inspire mycologists, but fungi researchers have announced in the journal Mycologia that two new species of glowing mushroom are named after movements in the composer's Requiem: Mycena luxaeterna (eternal light) and Mycena luxperpetua (perpetual light).
New protections for coral reefs and dwindling fish species in Belize
(04/27/2009) Coral reefs in Belize, considered to be some of the most pristine in the west, have secured additional protections. Rene Montero, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, signed a set of new laws this month to protect Belize’s coral reefs and the fish that inhabit them. The additional laws protect increasingly overfished species, ban spearfishing in marine reserves, and create no-take zones, according to a press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Territorial disputes and conservation
(03/23/2009) Political drivers such as those related to territorial disputes between tropical countries can result in direct and indirect ramifications negatively impacting conservation of native ecosystems report Arlenie Perez, Chuang Chin-Ta and Farok Afero in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science.
Coral reefs and mangroves worth $395-559 M per year in Belize
(11/14/2008) Services provided by coral reefs and mangroves in Belize are worth US$395 million to US$559 million per year, or 30 to 45 percent of the Central American country's GDP — according to a new report released by the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Belize's world famous coral reefs and rainforests at risk
(03/03/2008) Belize's world famous coral reefs and tropical forests are increasingly vulnerable to environmental problems which could impact its tourism-dependent economy, argues a Belizean ecologist writing in the inaugural issue of the open access e-journal Tropical conservation Science.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.