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Known as the jewel of the Caribbean, the Mesoamerican Reef is a rich tapestry of coral reefs, mangrove forests, coastal wetlands and diverse marine life. Although the reefs have survived seasonal onslaughts of hurricanes and other natural disasters, they may not be so well prepared to withstand the impact of human activity.
Stretching nearly 1,000km from the northern tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the Caribbean coasts of Belize and Guatemala to the Bay Islands off northern Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is the largest reef system in the Americas and only second in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.
Coastal wetlands, lagoons, mangrove forests and seagrass beds provide habitat for numerous coral and fish species, and act as an important defense against storms and coastal erosion.
It is also home to one of the world's largest population of manatees, mammoth whale sharks, several species of marine turtles and other amazing marine life.
Although the Mesoamerican Reef has managed to survive the intensity of seasonal tropical storms, it may not be so well prepared to withstand the impact of people.
Coastal development, unregulated tourism, pollution and overfishing threaten the reef system.