The IUCN Regional
Office for Mesoamerica has been working in the field of wetlands since 1989 and in the
marine area since 1992. Recently, it was decided to combine these areas in one program for
conservation and management of wetlands and coastal zones in Mesoamerica. Thanks to
financial support from NORAD, IUCN has been reinforcing and vitalizing program actions in this area.
Why Wetlands, Water and Coastal
Central America has 6,603 km of coast, representing approximately 12% of the Latin American and Caribbean coastline. There are some 567,000 ha of mangroves, an area equal to 8% of world mangroves and about 7% of the regions total forest cover. This zone also contains 1,600 km of coral reef. The second most important barrier reef in the world, after the one in Australia, is located off the coast of Belize.
In addition there are the huge Nicaragua and Managua lakes, both in Nicaragua, and Isabel, in Guatemala. Others are part of a regional system of volcanic lakes, such as those of Ilopango, in El Salvador; Amátitlan and Atitlán, in Guatemala; the Arenal reservoir, in Costa Rica, and others. Extensive flood plains are found along the Usumacinta River, in Mexico; Mosquitia, in Nicaragua and Honduras; the Belize River, in Belize, and La Pasion, Polochic and Cahabon rivers, in Guatemala. These are just examples of important areas in the region.
Despite the natural wealth represented by these wetlands and coastal zones, and their contributions to local, national and regional economies, the importance of these ecosystems has been poorly understood. As a result, active work is needed in promoting their conservation and sustainable use. To date,IUCN has been fomenting greater awareness of these important ecosystems, and working with colleagues in the region to carry out specific actions in field projects to demonstrate the feasibility of using the resources sustainably.