The Great Coral Reef
Maya Caribbean Coast South)
di corallo grande caraibico del maya
Maire B Estar
Great Maya Reef is the largest reef in North America
and ranks second in size globally behind the Great Barrier Reef off the
coast of Australia. It's northern extremity begins off the eastern coast
of the Yucatan Peninsula at Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres. From there it
extends 197 miles south, past Cancun and through the coastal waters of
the State of Quintana Roo where it passes alongside the Central American
countries of Belize and Honduras.
It is an ecosystem within itself, with diverse and abundant
forms of sea life, and yet, it is part of a greater system of rich coral
zones that thrive within the Caribbean Sea.
rocky coasts of the tropical band of the American continent, and the Caribbean
Islands are an ideal habitat for the growth of numerous species of hard
corals and other encrusting and building organisms. The constant development
of these creatures leads to the formation of fringing barriers
that come between the coast and the open sea. The coral reefs develop
in waters of incredible clarity where a scarce quantity of nutrients exist.
If not for the existence of the reefs, the water would be an enormous
reefs extend toward the sea until depth or lack of a rocky base make it
impossible for them to grow. The Great Maya Reef is one of these "fringing
barriers", as are the numerous coral beds that are readily
found near the shoreline. These reefs provide shelter for the majority
of fish species and crustaceans that inhabit the coastal waters. Their
beds are easy to explore, even for those who snorkel, because of the short
distance that separates them from the coast. In the calm waters of a bay,
you can traverse from beach to coral reef in a matter of minutes. Enroute
to the reef you will pass along scattered blocks of coral, which are thriving
communities of diverse sea life in the otherwise barren and transparent
ecosystems with the most abundant forms of life on earth are those ecosystems
of the coral reef. While exploring a reef in the Caribbean, you will find
that in the areas closest to the surface, where the corals are battered
by the waves and affected by the tidal flow there is an abundance of brain
coral. These irregular, rounded colonies cover vast areas of the sea bed.
nearer the open sea, one will find areas of elkhorn aeciospores. They
are named this because their branches are flattened like the horns of
the American elk. These
colonies exist in turbulent areas that are marked by many fragments of
hard coral that cover the sea bed. More delicate corals appear as the
waters become deeper, about 4-10 meters. These are bush corals with thin,
pointed branches. Because of their fragility, these corals don't dominate
an area as the brain or elkhorn corals would.
It is these coral reefs that attract millions of visitors to
the Caribbean each year. They are home to more than 600 species of fish
and almost 100 types of hard coral. Their waters are warm, clear and inviting.
As you enjoy their bounty and beauty, it is apparent that they must be
protected, along with the life that they foster. The reefs are made of
living coral which is very delicate and easily destroyed. Because of this,
while diving or snorkeling, please stay at least 3 feet above the coral.
Touching it or knocking it with a fin could cause a piece of it to break
off, and by keeping at arm's length, you won't disturb the fish.
Beauty of the Coral Reefs
Angelo Mojetta & Andrea and Antonella Ferrari Chartwell
Laiguana Secrets of the Mexican Caribbean
Passport-Cancun Fall/Winter 2000
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