overview is the result of a study carried out for
Biological Corridor System (iv.13.1.2).
The aim of the study was to establish a baseline of
studies carried out on Belize’s biodiversity.
main product of this study was a database with 2354
title entries. These titles were found by:
inspecting some of the larger libraries in Belize
a “snowball” search in the reference sections of
the papers found in these libraries
papers found all have in common that they refer in
some form or another to the biodiversity of Belize.
the 2354 entries in the database, the largest amount
(85%) consisted of actually published titles.
15 % of the titles where referable as “gray literature”
(internal reports, PhD Theses, EIA studies etc.) A
very small number of studies have been published on
the web. Undoubtedly this method of publicizing will
become more important in the future.
was the low number of titles that could actually be
traced IN Belize. From an astonishing 80% of the titles
it could not be established whether copies were available
in Belize or not. It is still common practice that
results of research carried out in Belize do not return
to this country. If they do, they also have a large
chance of getting “lost” (the inadequate or even absent
filing systems of the Belizean Libraries being the
main culprit in this). In the best case, such reports
end up in private libraries, but then they are not
accessible to the public.
actual number of Belizean biodiversity related websites
is still rather small, but the web proved to be an
important source for references and even some reports.
With time this medium will increase in importance.
Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the
world, the marine component is very important in Belize’s
biodiversity. Consequently it was important to look
at the marine component in the number of titles recorded.
surprisingly it was found that only 277 or 12% of
the titles have reference to the marine or coastal
zone component of Belize’s biodiversity.
investigated, this discrepancy continues throughout
the major taxonomic groups. Even, for the fishes,
the majority of the titles deal with inland fishes.
same is true for reptiles (which have an important
component consisting of marine turtles), and for birds,
many of which have to be considered marine or shore
birds in the coastal zone.
considering all taxonomic groups in the “marine titles”
the invertebrates (the orders in the back of the pie
below) are with 50 % by far the largest group. Nevertheless
this is still an under-representation of this large
and important group. Other, less species diverse groups
such as marine mammals, birds and reptiles are in
this sense over-represented with 23 % of the titles.
more broadly and analysing the taxonomic groupings
as a whole, it becomes clear that the vertebrates
with 48 % of the titles are very well presented considering
that this is a relatively “species poor” group of
largest group of organisms, the invertebrates (in
this case: marine invertebrates, insects, arachnids,
protozoa) have only 31 % of the titles. With 21% of
the titles, the Floristic section and the Fungi are
specifically at the mammals. It is clear that there
is a lot of attention for only a few of the larger,
more charismatic species such as Manatees and Black
Howler Monkeys. Other charismatic species such as
Jaguar and Tapir are surprisingly under-represented
in the titles. Bats as a group have instigated a large
number of titles, but this is also a large and diverse
group. Approximately half of Belize’s mammals are
same is true for the insects. In this extremely species
diverse group, only a few orders are well represented.
Most important in these are the Diptera (Flies, Mosquito’s,
etc.). This high number of titles is mainly due to
the medical interest in this group. Many Diptera have
medical importance as vectors and distributors of
human and agricultural diseases.
second largest group studied is the Lepidoptera (Butterflies
and Moths). This is probably caused by the fact that
most Lepidoptera are fairly large, often colourful
and easier to identify than most other insect groups.
Non taxonomic titles
there are several titles that do not directly relate
to a specific group. Such papers instead relate to
more general issues such as forestry, ecology, fisheries,
agriculture etc. etc. No less than 36% of the titles
recorded could be earmarked as “non-taxonomic”
will be some overlap with “taxonomic titles, since
some titles will deal with more than one subject.
A paper dealing on the silviculture of the Caribbean
Pine, for example will be considered both floristic
as well as forestry related. Forestry, medical, agriculture,
geology and sociology (although the last two are not
strictly dealing with biodiversity, the titles included
here usually have a strong biodiversity link) are
the three most frequently recorded subjects.
analyzing the data, it becomes clear that there has
been an increase in the number of titles in time.
But when grouping the data by decade it shows that
the pace of this increase has not been steady
the 19th century, the number of titles
produced is very small indeed; an increase becomes
visible only in the 1920’ies. This gradual increase
only lasts until the end of the 1930’ies. After that
there is a lull in the number of titles produced.
Then, in the 1960’ies the number of titles again starts
to increase and this increase is sustained up to date
(note that the number of titles in the 2000 – 2009
period is extrapolated from the number of titles produced
in 2000 and 2001).
this period the title categories have not been the
same. The analysis shows that the small peak during
the period 1920 – 1960 is largely caused by forestry
and flora related titles. After this period of interest,
forestry never regains this level of publishing dedication.
Marine (and coastal zone) titles have their time of
glory during the 1980’ies. Floristic titles appear
again very strongly in the period 1990 –1999. Special
mention also need the category “medical”. In the period
1960 – 1979, these usually have reference to medical
entomology, i.e. the research into mosquito’s, sandflies,
their protozoa and mammalian hosts.
major groups of Belizean organisms are reasonably
well covered. Especially during the past decade, a
number of important publications have appeared. By
best site for Belizean Vertebrate data is the Belize
Biodiversity Information System (BBIS): http://www.nybg.org/bsci/belize/
managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society. This
website has cross-referenced Bird, Fish, Mammal, Reptile
and Amphibian data focusing on distribution within
Belize’s protected areas system.
online-checklist is http://biological-diversity.info/mammals.htm
only printed publication dealing strictly with Belize’s
mammals is: McCarthy,
T. J., and E. Méndez. (1998) Mammals of Belize: A
Checklist. (19 pp). This
is a brief checklist with some pen drawings, and information
on diet, distribution, habitat and locomotion.
information on distribution of the Belizean mammals,
the BBIS website is important: http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/wcs/
website deals with manatee research and gives frequently
updated maps indicating the presence of some radio-tagged
most accessible checklist to the birds of Belize is:
Miller, B. W. & C. M. Miller (1998), Birds of Belize: A Checklist
The most recently updated checklist is at
is based (with permission) on the the list produced
Lee Jones and A. C. Vallely (Lynx editions).This
booklet is the most authoritative, detailed, and up-to-date
checklist and reports 566 bird species reliably recorded
list is frequently updated in the website: http://fwie.fw.vt.edu/wcs/bbisbird.htm
This site also gives information about distribution.
identification of Belizean birds, ornithologists have
to rely on books designed for Mexico and/or North
America. A new book dealing strictly with Belizean
birds (both resident and migrant), with excellent
L. (in press) A Field Guide to the Birds of Belize.
herpetology of Belize is very well covered. With several
Lee, J. C. (1996). The Amphibians and Reptiles of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Lee, J. C. (2000). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya World. 402
Stafford, P. J. & J. R. Meyer. (1999). A Guide to the Reptiles
of Belize. 356 pp.
Meyer, J. R. & C. Farneti Foster, (1996) A Guide to the Frogs
and Toads of Belize
most updated species list are to be found on the site:
reporting on the Anuran (frogs and toads) monitoring
system can be found on the site: http://mayamon.org
inland fishes of Belize are well documented and an
annotated key exists:
D. W. and Thomerson, J.E.
(1997) Fishes of the Continental Waters of
there are no monographs dealing with the marine fishes
T. & S.W. Dunkle. 1996. Odonata of Belize. Odonatologica
25 (1): 17-29
annotated checklist for some Lepidoptera families
J. C. (1999) Lepidoptera of Belize: 1) Butterflies,
2) Emperor moths and Hawk moths. 61 pp.
many Lepidoptera groups see: http://biological-diversity.info/species-list.htm.
An excellent site dealing with Belizean insects is:
This site pictures most species of most important
“Macro-moths” (Lepidoptera) together with some distributional
most current and accurate checklist of the vascular
flora of Belize is: Balick,
M. J., M. H. Nee & D. E. Atha (2000), Checklist
of the Vascular Plants of Belize (246 pp).
checklist reports 3408 vascular plants for Belize.
Unfortunately there is no information on distribution
or status of the plants. The information from this
publication is also published on the website: http://www.nybg.org/bsci/belize/
expanding number of species lists can be found at:
The only real
flora (with identification keys) strictly for Belize
P. C., and S. J. Record. (1936), The Forests and Flora
of British Honduras. But this work is very
incomplete. More reliable (but outdated as well) is:
Standley, P. C., J. A.
Steyermark & L. O. Williams (1946-1977) Flora
of Guatemala. 13 vols
are no other monographic publications on the flora
of Belize. There are two keys to individual families:
McLeish, I., N. R. Pearce & B. R. Adams. 1995. Native Orchids
of Belize. 278 pp.
J. C. (1996). Vegetative Key to the Passionflowers
of Belize. 4 pp.
Meerman, J. and W. Sabido. 2001. Central American
Ecosystems: Belize. Programme for Belize, Belize City.
2 volumes 50 + 88 pp.
simplified version of the map can be found at:
acrobat version of the report is available from
the WorldBank website:
shapefiles can also be downloaded from the WorldBank