Presentation by Ed Boles, Ph.D. at the 2nd Belize National Research Conference, 2019.
Driven by deterioration of the Belize River Watershed, largely through loss of riparian forests and wetlands due to inappropriate and unsustainable agricultural development, several watershed-scale efforts have occurred through the past few decades to assess these impacts and ultimately develop a consensus management plan to guide development and land use. An atlas of the watershed has been developed to provide information to community members through Friends for Conservation and Development. During the early days of these initiatives, including human impact mapping of the Chiquibul and Mopan Rivers, Guatemalan counterparts were involved. More recently a modeling team from Guatemala developed a modeling project that informed a University of Belize team. That team in turn conducted human impact mapping exercise within the Belize portion of the watershed, developed a draft watershed management plan, and proposed a community-based outreach and consultation process, all funded through the World Wildlife Fund. Based on a review of available documents and interviews of involved experts, the recent history of conservation initiatives in the Belize River Watershed is summarized, the current state of the system described, immediate and intermediate research and action needs identified, and opportunities for deeper collaboration among Guatemalan and Belizean government and non-government working groups in this bi-national watershed proposed as a way forward.
Key Words: environmental co-management, Chiquibul reserve, Belize river valley, rivers