Why is Turneffe Atoll so important? For all the reasons found here.
WHY TURNEFFE ATOLL
As the most biologically diverse atoll in the Caribbean, Turneffe Atoll is a truly incredible place. It is a combination of healthy coral reef (both fringing reef and patch corals), expansive back reef flats, large lagoon systems, sea grass beds, and extensive mangrove forest. Turneffe is home to 260 fish species, 77 plant species and five fish spawning aggregation sites. The atoll has great economic and sociological significance in Belize as a major commercial fishery and ecotourism center. In addition, the atoll provides Belize City and the mainland coast with essential protection from hurricanes.
Turneffe Atoll is one of only four coral atolls in the Caribbean. Two others (Lighthouse Atoll and Glover's Atoll) are also located in Belize and the fourth is in southern Mexico. Formation of these coral atolls was accomplished through years of coral buildup rather than by volcanic activity - the more common way of atoll formation. The entire atoll is surrounded by a fringe coral reef with waters inside the reef varying from less than a foot to 30 feet deep. Ocean depths around the atoll are thought to reach 10,000 feet.
Approximately 30 miles long and 10 miles across, Turneffe has evolved as a globally significant coastal marine ecosystem. This involves the following intimately interrelated habitats: the coral reef, the back reef flats, the sea grass beds, the mangroves and the littoral forest. During your visit you will learn how all of these varied habitats are both interrelated and interdependent. You will learn what is required to sustain healthy coral reefs, the functions of the back reef flats, the importance of healthy sea grass beds, and the reasons why mangroves are vital to the entire ecosystem.
In the end, we hope you will agree that the unique environment of Turneffe Atoll warrants continued protection from the threats of over-fishing and improper development which have decimated much of the coastal ecology elsewhere in the world.