What is the Wetlands, Water and Coastal
Zones thematic area?
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 Zones?
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.