October Issue of National Geographic Magazine Features the MESO-AMAZING Mesoamerican Reef

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

“Central America’s Mesoamerican Reef is half the length of its famous Australian counterpart but in many ways more remarkable.”- October issue of National Geographic

Press Release - Healthy Reefs Initiative – September 18, 2012 - In a timely reminder of Belize’s rich natural heritage during this month of national celebrations, the Healthy Reefs Initiative has the pleasure of informing the public that the upcoming (October 2012) issue of National Geographic contains a feature article about the “Mesoamerican Reef”. Belize is prominently featured in the article through photographs taken at several of Belize marine protected areas such as Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserves among others. Displayed with high quality and “Meso-amazing” photographs by Brian Skerry, the feature article, authored by Kenneth Brower, captures the resplendent natural diversity and acknowledges the long standing connection between the people and the natural reef system that dates back to the ancient Mayan civilization.

Photographer Brian Skerry writes, “Exploring the mesoamerican reef system remains one of my greatest experiences. During my time on this reef, I watched an array of stunning ocean wildlife moving between habitats, each animal and each ecosystem dependent on the other. As I lived in these environments day after day, it all began to make sense. I was far from understanding all of the mysteries of these animals and their relationships, but the overall picture was that of harmony. It was a perfectly designed machine that relied on balance. Remove or damage a piece of the machine and the whole thing suffers and falls apart. "

The article reveals and relishes the myriad connections among the mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs – “Life wells outward from the mangroves into the sea. At the same time, a living countercurrent flows back in: the eggs, larvae, and sometimes the gravid females of reef creatures that use the mangroves as a nursery. If any fish is emblematic of this life cycle—kindergarten in the mangroves, graduate school on the reef—it is the rainbow parrotfish.”

Lighthouse Reef atoll off Belize is one of the most seaward outliers of the Mesoamerican Reef.

The article and photos also highlight several regional species, like whale sharks and sea turtles, which have been tagged by Belizean researchers, and have demonstrated their traveling abilities. The article and associated photo gallery is a welcome celebration of the national and international treasure that Belize and her neighboring countries have committed to conserve for future generations, thereby maintaining our patrimony and sustaining our national economies and livelihoods.

Dr. Melanie Mcfield, Director of the Healthy Reefs Initiative, comments: “It is extremely satisfying to see this article in print. I gained new level of appreciation for the patience and persistence of underwater photographers during our field trip with the team. I’m sure all of the Belizeans who assisted in getting these great photographs will enjoy seeing them published. When creative artistry and sound science come together the results are powerful. These photos and words capture our imagination and our hearts in a way that is impossible with scientific charts and graphs. However, the information is sound and will be useful for teachers and students, who may find the iPad version of the interactive map particularly interesting.”

The Healthy Reefs initiative includes over 40 local, regional and international organizations working to conserve this Meso-amazing ecosystem and will release its 2012 Report Card on the health of the Mesoamerican Reef ecosystem during the first week of December 2012.

The October issue of National Geographic will hit newsstands soon. However, the article can also be viewed at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/mesoamerican-reef/brower-text and the photo gallery at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/mesoamerican-reef/skerry-photography. There is also an interactive ipad version of the regional map with key ecological and management features, which is available on the App Store now.

Photo Gallery

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