A Natural History of Belize: Inside the Maya Forest (Corrie Herring Hooks)
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Belize's Chiquibul Forest is one of the largest remaining expanses of tropical moist forest in Central America. It forms part of what is popularly known as the Maya Forest. Battered by hurricanes over millions of years, occupied by the Maya for thousands of years, and logged for hundreds of years, this ecosystem has demonstrated its remarkable ecological resilience through its continued existence into the twenty-first century. Despite its history of disturbance, or maybe in part because of it, the Maya Forest is ranked as an important regional biodiversity hot spot and provides some of the last regional habitats for endangered species such as the jaguar, the scarlet macaw, Baird's tapir, and Morelet's crocodile.
A Natural History of Belize presents for the first time a detailed portrait of the habitats, biodiversity, and ecology of the Maya Forest, and Belize more broadly, in a format accessible to a popular audience. It is based in part on the research findings of scientists studying at Las Cuevas Research Station in the Chiquibul Forest. The book is unique in demystifying many of the big scientific debates related to rainforests. These include "Why are tropical forests so diverse?"; "How do flora and fauna evolve?"; and "How do species interact?" By focusing on the ecotourism paradise of Belize, this book illustrates how science has solved some of the riddles that once perplexed the likes of Charles Darwin, and also shows how it can assist us in managing our planet and forest resources wisely in the future.
in the Maya Mountains, although there is considerable annual variation. Temperatures at Las Cuevas, for example, can fall below 10ºC at night during the first three months of the year and rise as high as 39ºC during the hottest month (May), although the average annual daily temperatures typically vary between 19ºC (January) and 27ºC (May). For the most part, across the country temperatures generally remain consistently hot, except when Modern-day descendants of the ancient Maya frequently
with dispersal aided by tidal currents. Initially they float horizontally, but over time their position shifts and they become vertical, increasing the chance that their base may lodge in the ground. Many of the propagules also sink over time, facilitating rooting in shallow water. However, they have also been known to regain buoyancy if rooting is not successful, providing a second chance at establishment elsewhere. Rhizophora propagules can remain viable in seawater for many months, although
can now boast the forest cover that Belize enjoys or the high biodiversity it supports. However, although forests such as the Chiquibul may seem wild and untouched to the casual observer, these are ecosystems greatly altered by human hand. Forestry may have ecologically degraded Belize’s forests, but it has also played a central role in protecting them. An understanding of the current environmental state of Belize and the Chiquibul is possible only if the history of timber extraction is first
believed that over 3.5 million cubic meters of mahogany have been cut from its forests since 1800.52 Although demand has continued throughout its history of extraction, prices have constantly fluctuated as the world’s economy has waxed and waned. Consequently, the industry has always been unstable. High export years were recorded in the 1840s, corresponding to the expansion of rail in Europe and a demand for mahogany to build railway carriages. Exports slumped during the Great Depression of the
the Belizean industry had become all but dormant. However, the industry continues in a modest fashion in the Petén region, supplying manufacturers who still produce natural gum. At present fewer than two thousand tons of latex are harvested annually.81 It is extremely rare to find a sapodilla (chicle) tree in Belize without the scars of the chiclero’s machete. © William Milliken. There is a law which forbids the tapping to death of the sapodilla trees, but nobody takes much notice of it, as