Ingles de Isleños

Roatan is the largest of the three Bay Islands of Honduras, located 65km north off the mainland. It is rich in biodiversity both on land and in the water.  Roatan is part of the second largest barrier reef, the Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) system.  The MAR extends from the Yucatan Peninsula all the way to the Bay Islands of Honduras. The reef, which is incredibly diverse, represents the livelihoods of many coastal communities that depend on it for sustenance.  Roatan has several marine ecosystems; starting from the shoreline the island has mangrove forests made up of four different species of mangroves. They have evolved to tolerate the salinity of the ocean and have specialized leaves and root systems, which help them get rid of excess salt. Mangroves serve as live barriers against natural phenomena such as hurricanes and their intricate aerial roots systems provide shelter for many commercially important invertebrates and nurseries for fish.  As you enter the crystal clear waters of Roatan, you will encounter seagrass ecosystems. These aquatic flowering grasses provide habitat and food for many marine species, notoriously the green sea turtles and spiny lobsters. Finally as you venture past the seagrass meadows, you will encounter the largest living ecosystem, coral reefs. Corals are made up of tiny organisms called polyps, although similar to jellyfish polyps have a strong calcareous skeleton, which mineralizes over time creating the reef, as we know it. Corals have a special relationship with microscopic algae known as Zooxanthallae, which lives in their tissues.  Zooxanthallae provide food and energy to the corals in return for shelter. However, these incredible marine ecosystems are in danger threatened by many factors including marine pollution, unsustainable development and tourism, and over-fishing to mention a few. It is up to us Hondurans to protect these ecosystems so that we can ensure their health and the conservation of the species that inhabit them. Gabriela Ochoa – MarAlliance

 

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