Belize currently has 36% of its terrestrial area designated as protected areas for conservation or sustainable resource use and yet surprisingly little is known about the country’s threatened tree species. This is largely due to a lack of in-country capacity for botanical research and conservation.
Faced with the combined pressures of a growing population, plans for oil exploration in some protected areas, cross-border incursions from neighbouring Guatemala, and increasing demand for exotic timber species from the Asian market, this is a pivotal point in time for the forests of Belize.
The Ya’axché Conservation Trust (Ya’axché) is charged with management of the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve and co-management of the Bladen Nature Reserve (with the Belize Forest Department). Recognised as one of the leading forces for nature conservation in Belize, Ya’axché undertake patrols and biodiversity monitoring in these areas and in the Columbia River Forest Reserve.
These areas form the last remaining broadleaf forest corridor in Belize connecting the Maya Mountains with the coastal areas of the Caribbean Sea. However, no species-specific tree conservation activities have been included in their management.
In 2013, the Global Trees Campaign teamed up with Ya’axché to increase the capacity of these protected areas to monitor and effectively manage rare or threatened tree species such as the Honduran rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii) and the pigeon plum (Quiina schippii).
Initial activities have focused on training ranger teams in tree identification, field surveys and regular monitoring of rosewood within the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve. Ya’axché is also developing a tree nursery and will be formulating action plans detailing conservation interventions for a range of threatened tree species based on the results of the 2013-14 surveys.