Not everything in Belize has to do with diving or fishing or the beach. There are mangroves all over Belize too, and not just on the islands.
Mangroves are one of the only types of trees that can thrive in partial seawater submersion. They survive by perching above their submerged anchor roots. They also have evolved complex methods to get rid of salt: either excreting salt from their leaves or by excluding salt in the first place via their taproots. They also grow knobby aerial roots stretching above the water to collect oxygen. Millions of these toe-like roots provide structural support for Belize’s coastlines, trapping and filtering sediments and preventing erosion.
The dense growth habit of mangroves also provides breeding and nesting havens for many types of birds in Belize: anhingas, neotropical cormorants, brown boobies, white ibis, a multitude of herons and others. Large populations of lobsters and crabs lurk in the mangrove’s shadows, and more than 70 species of fish feed and spawn in the mangroves, providing the basis for marine ecosystems and local human communities’ diets.
We saw many beautiful birds on San Pedro. We saw everything from the city birds, to two different types of pelicans, to cranes and herons, to the beautiful pink Rosette Spoonbills.
There were plenty of sea birds that we saw all along the coastal shores.
There were city birds.
And then there were the birds of the mangroves.
We saw beautiful, elegant cranes.
We saw two types of herons.
And we saw some beautiful pink spoonbills, known as Rosette Spoonbills. Like their cousin the flamingo, they get their beautiful pink coloring from the shrimp and algae they eat.
One well-loved marine mammal that browses its way through the mangrove channels, and the nearby seagrass beds, is the manatee. Belize is home to the critically endangered Antillean manatee. Due to habitat destruction, entanglement in fishing gear, and boat collisions, scientists believe there are only 2,500 Antillean manatees left in the wild. We looked for manatees, but we did not see any this trip, though I was told they were around. Maybe next trip.
The marine reserves in Belize are sanctuaries for some of these manatees. Each day, a manatee may eat up to 100 lbs. of vegetation, mostly seagrass. Seagrass beds are also carbon sinks, with deep and rich carbon sequestration occurring beneath their roots. Rising water temperatures encourage algae growth, however, which can smother seagrass beds and take away important feeding, breeding, and calving grounds for the manatee.
Besides the birds and the manatees, the mangroves are also home to the crocodiles. There are many crocodiles in these mangroves, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to catch their prey off guard. We picked up a couple and drove them home, and they had a video of a huge 14 footer. He killed their neighbor’s 160 lb dog. Again, we were on the lookout, but we did not see any crocodiles either. I would have liked to have seen one, but definitely from a safe distance, and out of harm’s way.
This concludes my sub set of my Belizian series, Life in Belize. I still have a lot more to share with you about the foods and flowers of Belize. So don’t go anywhere. There is still plenty more good stuff coming your way. 🙂