The Mesoamerican Reef By: Darcy Schnarr
The Mesoamerican Reef is a coral reef that runs over 900 km along the coast of Mexico, Belize and Honduras • The reef is home to over 500 species of fish, 60 different species of coral, sea turtles, whale sharks, dolphins, salt water crocodiles as well as one of the world’s largest manatee populations. What is it?
The reef acts as a barrier for storms, harsh ocean conditions and hurricanes to the wildlife in the reef. In studies done during Hurricane Katrina, the coral was shown to decrease the waves by as much as 6x. This means the difference between a 12 metre wave and a 2 metre wave. • The reef is attached very closely to ecosystems on the mainland including lagoons, wetlands, sea grass beds and mangrove islands. What else does it do?
Global Warming • Warmer water causes coral bleaching • Introduced or Unwanted Species • Lionfish What is threatening it?
Global warming and the increase in temperature of the water causes what is known as coral bleaching. • Coral bleaching is where the increase in temperature of the water kills algae living on the coral. • This algae is important because it is a primary food supply for the coral. • Some of the corals living on the reef include soft corals, finger corals and palmate corals. Global Warming
Certain coral species exist solely on this reef and may go extinct due to lack of food. • The coral on the reef provides shelter from storms and dangerous ocean conditions to the species that live within the coral reef. • If the coral on the reef dies, there will be dire consequences to the surrounding ecosystems Why does this matter?
In the case of Mesoamerican reef, an invasive species is a species that is not native to that particular ecosystem. • Invasive species are often introduced to an ecosystem through events caused by humans. • They disrupt an ecosystem typically because there are no natural predators, which allows their numbers to increase without bound. • They often feed on other species in the ecosystem and due to their ever increasing population, can eliminate their prey very quickly. Invasive Species
In the case of the Mesoamerican Reef, one invasive species that is causing problems is the Red Lionfish. • The Red Lionfish is a fish with long, venomous tentacles that has been introduced accidentally into the Mesoamerican Reef from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. • With no natural predators, the Red Lionfish is multiplying at a rapid rate. • The Red Lionfish’s diet consists of a variety of smaller fish and mollusks within the Mesoamerican Reef. • This presents a problem because the number of Red Lionfish is quickly increasing and they will eventually overwhelm their prey in the reef ecosystem. Lionfish
The Mesoamerican Reef is a complex ecosystem with a wide variety of species of coral, fish, mollusks and other sea life. • If one species is eliminated from the ecosystem, it can offset the balance and cycle of the rest of the ecosystem directly affecting the predator and prey of the Red Lionfish’s diet. • As well, if the Red Lionfish eliminates a species exclusive to the Mesoamerican Reef, the species will go extinct. Why does this matter?
There is a group known as The Nature Conservancy that runs projects and helps raise funds to protect various ecosystems around the world including The British Virgin Islands, Maui, The Mesoamerican Reef and many more locations. They have a plan to help protect The Mesoamerican Reef and the wildlife living on it. See the Microsoft Word document for more details. What is being done?
WWF: Mesoamerican Reef - http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/mesoamericanreef/index.html • National Geographic: Lionfish - http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/lionfish/ • Reef Resilience: Mesoamerican Reef - http://www.reefresilience.org/Toolkit_Coral/C8_MAR.html Works Cited