Posts Tagged river health

Bladen Nature Reserve Field Trip for Students

BNR Management Zones

The Bladen Nature Reserve is one of the most pristine areas and has the highest level of protection in Belize. Ya’axché organized field trips for primary school students from buffering communities and also for high school students, but it was not a regular field trip, it was to educate young students about the Bladen Nature Reserve.

By law, the Bladen Nature Reserve allows only two things to happen inside its boundaries which are research and education. The reserve is divided into two zones, a natural environment zone and a preservation zone. In the natural environment zone only research and education may occur but in the preservation zone no one is regularly permitted to engage in any activity. The Bladen Nature Reserve is a no take protected area.

The Bladen River is the river that runs north-easterly through the nature reserve with is also classified as the mother of the Monkey River Watershed which feeds into nearby rivers and the Port Honduras Marine Reserve.  

On March 30th 2010 rangers along with teachers from Medina Bank, Indian Creek, and Golden Stream primary schools and Ya’axché volunteers took 49 students and on March 31st 52 students into the nature reserve. Not only were students given the opportunity to explore, but the trip also provided an opportunity for the rangers to practice their strategies of communication, as rangers are look at by Ya’axché as local teachers and ambassadors of Ya’axché who engage in hands-on environmental education. The ranger had open discussions with the children to better understand the roles that rangers play to manage such a huge area with rich biodiversity.

Through this practical adventure, the elementary students were able to observe the pristine and invaluable resources of the nature reserve. This activity directly involved the future decision makers of the three buffer communities, hopefully influencing their relationship with managing the communities natural resources sustainably.

Ya'axche ranger Explaining the importance of pristine rivers

Various situations encountered within the nature reserve were used as “teachable moments” to relate to problems posed to it. The rustic road entrance was used to illustrate the likely hood of impacts and threats posed not only by the surrounding communities but by anyone since it is accessible.  The Pine Savannah and the boundary line was used to discuss prescribed burning to prevent the spread of wild fires from Pine Savannahs. Rangers also talked about nutrient cycles, forest structure, pollution and littering, erosion control, seed dispersion, healthy water systems and the importance of wildlife.

Students were brought to the Blue Pool to show the importance and beauty of pristine waters which affect reefs because of their interconnectivity.

Through these field trips Ya’axché focused on educating the teachers and the future decision makers – students, about the value of effectively managed community natural resources. By spending time within the most pristinely conserved area of the Toledo District, the students and educators were able to observe the interconnectedness between their use of resources outside the nature reserve and what happens within Bladen Nature Reserve.

On April 1st 2010 26 high school students attended the field trip, with a Ya’axché  ranger and Education Outreach Officer. Ya’axché hopes to enable the students to become stewards of conservation in their communities, and give them training and skills they need to continue on in the path of environmental education.


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Freshwater Bio-monitoring in Southern Belize

Freshwater Bio-monitoring

Freshwater bio-monitoring is integral to watershed management throughout the developed world. Nonetheless, many tropical developing countries, including Belize, lack formal procedures and methods for monitoring and managing water quality. Therefore, we are pleased to announce that, with funding from Rufford Small Grants Foundation, Ya’axché will be facilitating research to develop cost-effective bio-monitoring systems for tropical rivers.

This research will investigate natural biological variability and variation in response to anthropogenic impact to contribute to the development of monitoring tools that are able to indicate river health. It will provide a crucialcomponent to the development of standardized and cost effective methods, allowing those interested in the management of freshwater ecosystems to monitor impacts and evaluate the effectiveness of management activities.

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Issues in Water Quality Stemming from Lack of a Riparian Buffer


Compromised Riverbank Integrity

This could be a picture of Anywhere, Belize.  We see the convergence of nature and man, and a river that runs through it all.

This photo was taken recently here during the dry season in southern Belize.  You can see the riverbank sloping upward toward the corn field in the distance.  That there is no natural vegetation separating that field from the riverbank is significant.  Such an area, were it to exist, would be called a riparian (riverbank) buffer and it is crucially important for maintaining the integrity of the river.  They provide a buffer between the activities which occur on land and the riverine environment, reducing the effects of contaminants, nutrients and sediments and moderating run-off to the river.  They control erosion and provide habitat for a variety of species.

On top of that (quite literally) we see a bridge, from which a variety of sediments will run off into the river.  Unnatural sedimentation is also a serious concern in river ecosystems because it may reduce light levels and can smother sensitive plant and animal life that depends on the habitat. This is additionally problematic in coastal areas where marine ecosystems and coral formations are affected.

Riparian deforestation is probably one of the most chronic and wide-ranging of the threats to freshwater integrity in this area. Riparian forests are threatened by a range of land-use activities. Approximately 80% of Toledo’s population is reliant on slash and burn farming, cattle ranching is increasing throughout the region, and the commercial sector is replacing riparian forests with citrus, banana and mango plantations. These forests play an integral role in maintaining ecosystem structure and function. Their loss and fragmentation, particularly along headwater tributaries, is thought to be having considerable impact upon riparian, freshwater, near-shore and reef integrity.

As a result, Ya’axche is beginning to implement a freshwater monitoring program to assess the impact of threats such as these to riverine and marine health.  Stay tuned for updates on this new program of ours!

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