- Belize has over 1000 islands, ranging in size form a small clump of overwashed mangroves to the large Ambergris Caye. There is no separate definition to differentiate between an island and a caye. The latter is generally referred to as an island with sand and vegetation. If we look only at the larger islands, however, approximately 200-300 cayes find shelter within the Belizean coastal zone.
- Eleven types of cayes have been distinguished within the Belizean coastal zone. They are categorized based on whether vegetated or not, type of vegetation and location. For example, an unvegetated sand caye is Curlew Caye, a vegetated sand caye is Tobacco Caye and Harvest Caye is a coastal barrier caye. Cayes are very fragile areas as they are prime targets for tourism and other recreational development. Remember that with uncontrolled development irreparable damage can occur.
Belize, like other tropical and subtropical countries, has an ideal climate and other environmental factors such as salinity, tidal fluctuation, sedimentation and wave energy in which mangrove forests thrive.
To many of us, mangroves may seem unappealing, so much that these fertile ecosystems have been seen as perfect dumpsites as well as areas to be drained, filled and cleared for development. Fortunately, their ecological importance has been recognised by scientists around the world, and efforts have been made to protect these productive and delicate ecosystems against encroachment and pollution so thay they can be kept as a link for the interchange with those other ecosystems to which they are intimately connected.
Mangroves are a group of woody salt tolerant trees that are adapted to grow in the intertidal zone. They are highly productive ecosystems which provide essential nursery grounds for many marine species such as fish and lobster. They provide food and shelter for many organisms both above and below the water. They also serve as protection against land erosion and storm damage and act as a buffer zone that filters pollutants and prevents them from reaching the sea