Reconnaissance Study of the Geomorphology and Benthic Communities of the Outer Barrier Reef Platform, Belize

Burke, R. (1982) Reconnaissance Study of the Geomorphology and Benthic Communities of the Outer Barrier Reef Platform, Belize. Technical Report.

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    The first general survey of the entire 257 km outer platform of the Belizean barrier reef has disclosed three provinces having distinct community distribution and geomorphic characteristics: (1) the northern province, which contains 46 km of shallow-water reefs; (2) the central province, with 91 km of shallow-water reefs; and (3) the southern province, which includes only 10 km of shallow-water reefs. Central province reefs are the best developed. They are wide and continuous shallow reefs (<—0.2 m MSL) with flourishing communities of branching corals. The fore reef is characterized by high relief and a pronounced ridge, capped with Acropora cervicornis at depths of less than 20 m, extending along the shelf edge. The reef in the northern and southern provinces is discontinuous except along Ambergris Cay in the north. Wide passages of uniform depth occur in the northern province, in contrast to the narrow, deep channels within passes typical of the southern province. In both the north and the south, the reef occurs adjacent to islands and generally is more distant from the shelf edge than is the reef along the central province. In the south, however, some sections of the reef occur as reentrants and are closer to the shelf edge. On the seaward side, framework-building communities have the same composition along the barrier reef, but relative species abundance and density vary significantly. The greatest abundance occurs in the central province in association with the coral ridge and high-relief spur and groove structures. The distribution of these structures coincides with the greatest extent of sea level reef development. Their distribution also corresponds to the region of the barrier reef most protected from open ocean waves. The shelter afforded by seaward platforms has favored growth of rapidly accumulating communities of branching corals, and thereby has substantially contributed to the central province's development of the most extensive and luxuriant shallow portions of the barrier reef.

    Item Type: Technical Reports (Technical Report)
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      Publisher: Smithsonian Institute
      Keywords: Geomorphology, benthic communities, Barrier Reef Platform
      Subjects: (C) Ecosystems > (CB) Marine > (CBA) Coral Reefs
      (Z) Other or Unspecified
      Publication Sources: (3) Other Source > (3D) Other or Unspecified
      Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2011 13:55
      Last Modified: 25 Jan 2011 13:55

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