Belize: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Belize: Natural and Geographic Landscape

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 17:21
Posted in:

Belize is located along the Caribbean coast of northeastern Central America. Its geography consists of heavily forested plains and the Maya Mountains. The Belize Barrier Reef System flanks the coastline while cays and atolls dot the reef system.

Geography of Belize

Belize is located along the Caribbean coast of northeastern Central America. The country borders Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.

Throughout Belize's history, Guatemala has claimed sovereignty over all or part of Belizean territory. The border dispute remains unresolved and contentious.

The north of Belize consists mostly of flat, swampy coastal plains, heavily forested in places.

The Belize Barrier Reef System, the second-longest barrier reef in the world, flanks much of the predominantly marshy coastline. Small cay islands dot the reef.

The low range of the Maya Mountains is located in the southern section of the country.

Climate

Belize is characterized by a moist tropical climate. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean Sea.

The first dry season occurs from late February to May. The wet season occurs from June to November although it is interrupted from August to September by a second dry season.

Flora and Fauna

The wildlife of Belize is abundant and includes tapir, deer, jaguar, puma, Baird’s tapir, American crocodile, and manatee as well as many species of turtles, tortoises, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish.

According to the Global Biodiversity Index, despite its small size, Belize is the 67th most biodiverse country in the world; with 531 species of birds, 37 amphibian species, 650 species of fish, 148 species of mammals, 140 species of reptiles, and 4,192 species of vascular plants.

Map of Central America

Location map of the countries of Central America

The Natural and Geographic Landscape of Belize

Geographic Regions

Belize can be divided into four main geographic regions:

  • the northern limestone lowlands

  • the Maya Mountains in the south

  • the narrow coastal plain

  • the offshore atolls and cayes

Northern Lowlands

The northern half of the country consists of limestone lowlands and swamps less than 60 m (200 ft) above sea level. Eighteen rivers and many perennial streams drain these low-lying areas.

The area is dominated by flat agricultural fields, small farming towns, and lowland rainforests.

Westward from the northern coastal areas, the terrain changes from mangrove swamps to tropical pine savannah and hardwood forest. The flora is highly diverse considering the small geographical area.

Maya Mountains

The Maya Mountains of the south, dominate all but the narrow coastal plain. A plateau of igneous rock cut by erosion into hills and valleys, the rugged but relatively low mountains stretch in a southwesterly to northeasterly direction. The highest point is Victoria Peak at 1,120 m (3,674 ft).

The Cockscomb Range, a spur of the Maya Mountains, runs toward the sea and rises to its highest point at Doyle’s Delight at 1,124 m (3,687 ft) in elevation. Because Doyle’s Delight is just a spur that is slightly higher than the surrounding mountain range rather than a true peak, it had no official name for most of Belize’s history.

Covered with shallow, highly erodible soils of low fertility, these heavily forested highlands are very sparsely inhabited.

Coastal Plain

The coastline is flat and swampy, with many lagoons, especially in the northern and central parts of the country.

On the southern coastal plain and inland from Belize City, the open savanna (grassland) is marked by scattered oaks, pines, and palmetto palms.

Offshore Cayes and Atolls

Almost countless cayes, atolls, and lagoons fringe Belize's Caribbean coastline.

The Belize Barrier Reef System consists of the largest barrier reef in the northern hemisphere, offshore atolls, several hundred sand cays, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons, and estuaries.

Topographic map of Belize

Topographic map of Belize

Bodies of Water

Bays

Lakes

  • Aguacate Lagoon

  • Black Creek Lagoon

  • Button Lagoon

  • Cenote Lagoon

  • Chan Lagoon

  • Chiwa Lagoon

  • Cocos Lagoon

  • Cook's Lagoon

  • Cox Lagoon

  • Crabcatcher Lagoon

  • Cudjoe Lagoon

  • Doubloon Bank Lagoon

  • Fabers Lagoon

  • Four Mile Lagoon

  • Northern Lagoon

  • Southern Lagoon

Rivers

  • Belize River (Old River)

  • Bladon River

  • Hondo River (Río Hondo)

  • Macal River

  • Manatee River

  • Moho River

  • Monkey River

  • Mopan River

  • Mullin River

  • New River (Rio Nuevo)

  • North Stann Creek River

  • Rio Grande River

  • Sarstoon River

  • Sibun River (Xibun River)

  • Sittee River

  • Temash River

Map of Belize

Map of Belize

Natural Regions

Approximately 60% of Belize is forested and there are at least 50 different forest tree species. Savanna, scrubland, and wetland constitute the remainder of the landscape. Important mangrove ecosystems are also represented.

The following is a list of ecological regions in Belize, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests

  • Belizian pine forests

Mangroves

  • Belizean Reef mangroves

  • Belizean Coast mangroves