In Belize, we have been assisting the family that owns 600 acre Long Caye, the largest landmass on Lighthouse Reef Atoll, about 75k off the coast. The atoll is one of only four in the western hemisphere, and it is part of the Mesoamerican Reef System, the second largest reef system in the world. Lighthouse Reef is far from population centers and other landmasses, making it a very unique place to study coral reef conditions, as well as mangrove and terrestrial ecosystems. Most of the influences on this remote atoll are already in “in the global soup”, both in the oceans and in the atmosphere.
Over the last year, we’ve collected baseline data, both on the reef and on land, and we’ve begun a public / private partnership with landowners on Long Caye to preserve the most sensitive places in this ecosystem. As in many projects like this, we wanted satellite imagery to get started with, and GeoEye came through with a fine IKONOS image on November 17 of last year. Since then we’ve been using GPS to record our exploration of the area, while also delineating a preserve, trails, littoral and mangrove forests, the hydrologic features, and the human activities and structures. No snakes, thank goodness, but there are American Crocodile, who are quite shy, and would rather not be seen.
More updates on this project forthcoming – we are wrapping-up the database design now, and finishing the initial baseline mapping exercise. We are developing strategies to run mapping and science-based education and volunteer programs on Long Caye this fall and winter – stand-by for more information.