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The health of the world’s oceans is receiving welcome attention this month, with World Oceans Day on June 8, and the proclamation of June as National Ocean Month in the US.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) joins its supporters and partners across the globe to celebrate our oceans. Recognizing the multitude of threats facing the world’s marine environments, FFI is intensifying our investment in marine conservation, redoubling efforts to protect key marine habitats, address critical marine policy issues, and focus on the vital linkages between terrestrial and marine ecosystems.
Belize provides an excellent example of the critical link between terrestrial and marine health. Adam Henson, newly appointed Technical Director with FFI-US has just returned from Belize following a visit with FFI’s long-term partner—Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché). His trip provides an opportunity to highlight Ya’axché’s efforts in the Maya Golden Landscape which is contributing to protection of a globally important marine ecosystem – the Mesoamerican Reef.
FFI is supporting Ya’axché in maintaining the integrity of the Maya Golden Landscape in southern Belize, an important conservation landscape rich with both terrestrial and marine biodiversity. This is one of Central America’s last unbroken stretches of broadleaf forest, extending from the Maya Mountain highlands down to the Caribbean Sea, with several rivers feeding the blue waters of the Mesoamerican Reef.
The terrestrial landscape hosts a rich assemblage of biodiversity—more than 220 tree species, over 350 birds and more than 45 threatened wildlife species including Harpy eagle, Baird’s tapir, and jaguar.
At the other end, the Mesoamerican Reef is the second largest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Its diverse marine and coastal habitats support approximately 60 species of coral, 350 molluscs, and more than 500 fish species. Economically, it is critical to both local communities and the region’s sizable tourism industry.
FFI works with Ya’axché Conservation Trust to support integrated landscape management in the Maya Golden Landscape, from the forests of the Maya Mountains to coral reefs and mangroves on the Caribbean coast.
There is a strong cultural element to Ya’axché’s work with traditional Mayan communities across the landscape, as they take into account the rich indigenous culture, including traditional agricultural practices and Mayan cultural sites. FFI is exploring the potential to use a cultural values approach to conservation to integrate Mayan cultural values with nature conservation. FFI’s Cultural Values Program is based on a pilot project in Uganda that was launched from the US with seed funding provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
The ecological connectivity of this forest landscape from the Maya Mountains down to the coast and the Mesoamerica Reef is what makes this landscape so extraordinary.
World Oceans Day provides a pertinent reminder of the importance of the work FFI and our on-ground partners undertake, working to ensure the vital ecological linkages from the Rivers all the way out to the Reef are protected and maintained well into the future.