Belize forests threatened by disease SEARCH NEWS

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey

After the damage caused by Hurricane Earl in August, World Land Trust (WLT) partner Programme for Belize (PfB) has spoken of threats to the surviving trees which could be at risk of disease, as well as fire, in the storm’s aftermath.

During a visit from WLT last week, staff were impressed at the swift recovery of the PfB offices after the floods in Belize City; there is still some work to do on the building but staff have moved back in and are able to do their work. However, PfB reported that the damage from the hurricane to the forests of the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area has been quite extensive, as the storm passed through the reserve.

Severe damage to the forest

After completing a flyover of the reserve to assess the damage, PfB produced a preliminary report which showed some areas with up to 60 per cent of damage. As sustainable timber production from the reserve buffer zones is one of the project’s sources of sustainable income, PfB are concerned that the damage from the hurricane has rendered much of the timber unusable.

Despite this, they have said that some of the fallen trees can still be used for timber, and by removing the hurricane debris PfB rangers will reduce the risk of forest fires.

Risk of disease

The damage to the surviving trees may also have left them vulnerable to disease. Ramon Pacheco, Station Manager at PfB, told WLT “When a tree is damaged the heart of the tree can become exposed and vulnerable to fungus, so the tree begins to decay, and subsequently attracts termites. This can create abnormalities in trees as they grow, or if the crown of the tree is sufficiently damaged, the tree will eventually die.”

Viv Burton, Director of Communications at WLT, said “Spending time in the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area in early November was a real eye-opener to the dramatic effects that hurricanes leave in their wake. Swathes of forest had fallen like matchsticks where the gusts had hit the forest. While the damage was localised it was obvious how much time and work needs to be invested in the clearing up programme.”

Moving forward following the hurricane PfB is aiming to protect the remaining forest and wildlife from fires. This is always a priority following hurricane damage as the fallen trees and branches are targets for fire that sweep across the neighbouring savanna ecosystem.

On a positive note following the site visit to Belize, John Burton commented “As we arrived at La Milpa EcoLodge in the heart of PfB forests we were greeted by exquisite Silver Foxes criss-crossing between the cabanas, Spider and Howler Monkeys in the trees and a cacophony of song from the huge numbers of vibrantly coloured birds on winter migration from North America. The fact that wildlife abounds around the lodge is homage to the efforts of Programme for Belize who have protected their wildlife for 27 years.”

How to help

WLT will be sending the funds raised for the Belize Emergency Hurricane Appeal to PfB but we would like to boost the donation to £10,000 if possible.  Funds will go to the recovery effort, which includes the fire management team at Programme for Belize to increase the fire protection of the reserve by removing dry hurricane debris, reinforcing ‘fire breaks’ between forest blocks and raising awareness of the causes and risks of wild fires in local communities.

Can you help us raise £3,000 for this appeal before Christmas?

Donate to the Belize Hurricane Emergency Appeal

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