[Coral-List] Coral species list for Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System

Melanie McField mcfield at healthyreefs.org
Wed Apr 27 12:47:36 EDT 2011

Dear Alina and Doug,

I agree with your reef classifications. We have always used the term
"Mesoamerican Reef" for the ecologically connected reefs in this region,
that we have delineated partly for conservation and  management purposes. We
have a map of the area some nice diagrams of the typical reef types and
descriptions in the 2008 Report Card for the Mesoamerican reef that you can
download from the library on www.healthyreefs.org.

I wasn't part of the discussions in the mid-late 90's that came up with the
term "Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System", as part of a political process
bringing together the heads of state of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and
Honduras for the signing of the "Tulum Declaration" in 1998 declaring this
reef system a globally significant marine resource, with a shared commitment
to conserve it.  When I queried the inclusion of the term 'barrier' for this
wider reef system (all of which is not a barrier reef) I was told they
wanted to firmly 'link' it to the barrier reef in Belize and to distinguish
it as not including other Mesoamerican reefs in Nicaragua, Panama and Costa
Rica. So it seems it was partly a political reason limit the geographical
extent of the reef unit to encompass those 4 countries that were signing the
accord. The Nicaraguan rise also forms somewhat of a natural delineation and
limitation on connectivity for the reefs further south.

So as typically happens, our result is a combination of science and politics
and is basically working for us within the region. Whichever term we use,
the most important aspect is that we define our spatial area with a map (and
a rationale for it), and that we are all clear that these different reef
types are included in this magnificent, diverse piece of reef real estate,
whether we call it the Mesoamerican Reef or the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef
System. I dont think we will be jumping ship to call it the Middle American
Reef any time soon :)

FYI  ...The 1996 ICRS from Panama has a great overview geological paper by
MacIntyre and Aronson about the geology of the Belize barrier reef system
and atolls.

Melanie McField, PhD
Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Smithsonian
1755 Coney Dr, Belize City, Belize, Central America
tel 501-223-4898   cell 501-610-4899
email: mcfield at healthyreefs.org  www.healthyreefs.org

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