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Environmental History of the Sarstoon Temash Sphagnum Bog - Research 2010


Rapid Ecological Assessment

Last Frontiers,

A Savanna - Swamp Forest Habitat south of Southern Lagoon, Belize District, Belize

Jan Meerman

Last Frontiers is a 46.4 ha (115 acres) private property situated along the southern shores of Southern Lagoon near Gales Point.

A Rapid Ecological Assessment (REA) was carried out on this private property. The purpose of the REA was to establish rare and fragile habitats that should be excluded for development.

Much of the REA focussed on ecosystems and hydrolology, both of which are closely interlinked. The Last Frontiers property has effectively its own watershed centered on the un-named creek that dissects the property from SW to NE. This creek reaches into the foothills of the Maya Mountains and covers a fairly small watershed of approximate 1,700 ha. Nevertheless this is large enough to cause occasional floods on the property. In addition the property is located at the shores of Southern Lagoon from which it occasionally receives floodwaters.

As a concequence of the hydrology there are a number of ecosystems that are defined by their distinct type of hydrology.

The main runoff from the Maya Mountains drains through a small lowland creek and because of the frequent floodings, the associtated vegetation type is a swamp forest. The limestone hills on and near the property drain subterranean, but ultimately lead into the same small creek. Then there is the savanna, that is subject to "sheetflow" during periods of rain and depending on it's inclination drains directly into the lagoon or joins the underground aquifers under the limestone hills and ultimately again join the creek waters.

Muc focus was on the complex mosaic of ecosystems found on the property. Given the high complexity, scale was of importance and below is a study on the effect of scale on the ecosystem reporting.

Last frontiers 1:250.000

The above is a map at a scale of 1:250,000. At this scale only 4 ecosystems can be mapped.

In contrast, the map below was prepared at a scale of 1:50,000. This scale allows for greater detail. In fact, 9 different ecosystems have now been mapped.

The 3 small maps here clearly demonstrate the effect of scale. The 1:250,000 map reflects what could be called a "national" planning scale. To review ecosystems/vegetation types, this is often the only scale that makes sense.

On the other hand is the 1:50,000 map that could be a "local regional map" at the district scale or similar. This map clearly gives a lot more detail.

However, for local management purposes, this scale may still be to coarse. In contrast, the 1:20,000 scale map below gives enough detail for local planning and management. No less than 16 different ecosystems can be discerned here (including 3 different depths for the lagoon, which will be important for any coastal/boating activities. While there are no less than 4 different forest types, the dominant ecosystem on the property is short-grass savanna.

The vegetation types house a variety of vegetation, very little of which appeared to be rare or endangered. Possibly the only exception is the rare Cycad: Zamia meermanii, from which a couple of specimens were found.

Last frontiers 1:50,000

Then again, the above 1:50,000 map can still be considered coarse for various purposes. To demonstrate this, the map below was prepared at a scale of 1:20,000 (not to scale on this web page! - click for a larger image but beware of slow download). No less than 16 different ecosystems have been mapped here!

Last frontiers 1:20,000

The fauna of the area appears to be impacted by rather heavy hunting. Hunting in the area focus mainly on White-tailed Deer, Peccary and Gibnut (Paca).

The final report is available for download:

Main report and appendices (pdf: 6 mb)

Picture guide to the vegetation (pdf: 2 mb)


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Last modified: February 15, 2010