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Belize

Land and Resources

Mangrove swamp vegetation, Belize government, climate of Belize, green tree frogs, Rio Azul

Belize is bounded on the north and northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. The country’s greatest length from north to south is about 280 km (about 175 mi) and its greatest breadth is about 100 km (65 mi). The total area of Belize is 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi). A large barrier reef lies about 30 km (20 mi) offshore. Within it are many low-lying islands, or cays.

The northern half of Belize is generally low and flat. Large areas of it are swampy. The southern half consists of a coastal plain that rises abruptly to inland hills and mountains. The Maya Mountains, the most notable feature of southern Belize, run parallel to the coast and rise to a maximum elevation of 1,120 m (3,675 ft) atop Victoria Peak. Tropical forests blanket much of the south, although commercial agriculture and logging have led to deforestation.

The principal streams are the Belize River; the Rio Azul, which forms much of the boundary with Mexico; and the Sarstun River, which forms the southwestern boundary with Guatemala.

Climate

The climate of Belize is subtropical, moderated by sea breezes along the coast. The average annual temperature is about 26° C (about 79° F). Inland, however, summer temperatures can exceed 38°C (100°F). Humidity is high, especially along the coast.

The total annual rainfall increases from north to south and averages about 1,800 mm (about 71 in). A rainy season extends from May to December. The height of the rainy season is from June to October. Belize is located near one of the most active tropical storm areas of the Caribbean and periodically suffers severe damage from storms and hurricanes.

Plants and Animals

Forests cover about 72 percent of Belize. Deciduous trees are found in the north; tropical hardwood trees predominate in the south. Principal species include the commercially important mahogany, cedar, and rosewood, as well as pine, oak, and palms. Mangrove swamp vegetation is found along the coast.

Belize is rich in wildlife, including jaguar, deer, tapir, monkey, and kinkajou. Numerous species of birds inhabit the forests. Reptiles and amphibians include iguanas, crocodiles, and green tree frogs. Tropical fish swim in the coral reef off the coast. The country has a number of wildlife reserves, including the Cockscomb Jaguar Reserve.

Environmental Concerns

Belize has abundant wildlife and forests, but the growth of the population and of tourism threaten wildlife habitats and have led to deforestation. The world’s second largest coral reef lies off the coast and supports many marine ecosystems. Pollution, tourism, and fishing have caused disturbances in these ecosystems. Fresh water is plentiful and most of the population in the north of the country has access to safe water supplies. However, water quality is a problem in the south, and the Belize government is engaged in initiatives to improve it.



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