"The conservation of 30% of biodiversity in tropical regions requires leaving patches of forest and areas of various degrees of clearance within developed areas."

Studies in other tropical regions show that about 30% of regional biodiversity cannot be conserved in national parks. This is because high biodiversity exists in a patchwork of habitats, each of which provides habitat for particular species.

The Sartenejan Region has a high biodiversity because of its location in highly biodiverse Central America and its relatively uncleared landscape. The influence that the Maya had on increasing or decreasing this biodiversity is not well researched. Nevertheless, the Yucatan tropical dry rainforest's of Mexico and Belize were certainly a core bioregion for the Mayans during their most populous period from the Middle Preclassic (1000 BC) until the Terminal Classic (800 AD). see Mayan Heritage  and Mayan Port of Sarteneja  

They were also occupied after the collapse of Maya civilisation between 800 and 1000 AD then until the present in some areas as villages and farms.  see Sartenejan History

So the region represents the results of long term (1800 years) of large scale clearing and fragmentation of land under slash burn agriculture, ie, 7 years regrowth and 5 years farmland, with some other land permanently farmed as terraces or as irrigation systems. 

 Acacia and ant symbiosis

The biopolitical region previously occupied by the Maya could even now be dependent on the succession of plant types and vegetation structure from forest clearance then back to mature forest to retain its biodiversity. The Yucatan tropical dry rainforest of the Sartenejan Region and its remnants on the Yucatan in Mexico are the most threatened forest type in Central America and support a wide variety of biodiversity.

More conservation is needed for the Yucatan tropical dry rainforest as it is being rapidly cleared and fragmented. Conservation efforts need guidance by information of the influence of the Mayans and their agricultural and hunting practices on the forests current state.


Above: A forest about three years after burning. Taken at B'alam Ja Way, 2012.

To conserve the biodiversity of the Sartenejan Region a mosaic of rainforest and uncleared areas must be maintained. A mosaic landscape is developing through current land management practices in the Sartenejan Region. However, the most efficient mosaic of cleared and developed areas to maintain biodiversity, the effect of designed corridors for dispersal between forest patches, and the species that require targeted management are unknown.

To provide this knowledge we are making lists of the reptiles, amphibiansland snails, tarantulas, Bairds tapir and other species and developing an information base that will be used to guide biodiversity conservation in the developing landscape in the Sartenejan Region. The information base will provide for species conservation in the Sartenejan Region.

The Sartenejan Region is vegetated by the most threatened forest type in Central America, which is only found in the Sartenejan Region and northward on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Semi-deciduous rainforest has considerable leaf fall during the 4 month dry season, with some trees entirely loosing their leaves. During the period there are thick layers of leaves on the forest floor, with these almost gone by the end of the wet season. Even with this extended dry season, semi-deciduous rainforest supports a range of epiphytic orchids, cacti, and bromeliad's.

Many animals and plant species dependent on Yucatan tropical dry rainforest for their survival. Many of these are undescribed and there is so much to learn about this unique ecosystem, and biodiversity conservation in developing areas.

Trees provide an important role in biodiversity conservation both as forest and as plantation and crop trees. Sustainability for Sarteneja will encourage the retention of patches of forest to conserve biodiversity, to maintain a living and beautiful landscape, and to provide for the long term economic and environmental sustainability of the Sartenejan Region. The Yucatan tropical dry rainforest has an impressive biodiversity of plant species from trees to ferns and mosses, to orchids, Heliconias and Bromeliads.

Besides plants, birds and butterflies are often the most recognised and visible components of biodiversity. Birds and butterflies are valuable both to tourism and to the natural beauty of the region. Birds help control insect pests and spread forest seeds and butterflies fertilise flowers and their caterpillar's maintain ecological balance, provide food for predators, and control weed species.

Other animals of the Yucatan tropical dry rainforest include mammals, birds and fish, and a large but unknown number of species of insects, spiders, snails and other invertebrates. The Sartenejan Region has a very high biodiversity of animals and plants by global standards, and a high biodiversity by neo-tropical standards.

Sustainability for Sarteneja will study the effect of forest fragment size, distance from other forest fragments, and fragment history, to reveal the effect of clearance of the Yucatan tropical dry rainforest on biodiversity and to provide a guide for sustainable development.

Shipstern Nature Reserve, only 4 miles from Sarteneja, is the flagship of biodiversity conservation in the Sartenejan Region. Shipstern Nature Reserve is world renowned for conserving one of the last areas of Yucatan tropical dry rainforest's. Shipstern Nature Reserve covers an area of more than 11,000 hectares (ca. 27,000 acres) and protects a wide array of habitats, ranging from saline wetlands and lagoons to Yucatan tropical moist and dry forests. Of the latter, one type of Yucatan tropical dry rainforest's is so rare that it is only is found only now in four different areas on the Yucatan Peninsula. Shipstern Nature Reserve is home to all five native cat species found in Belize, the endangered Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), and a myriad of other plant and animal species. For example, almost 300 species of birds have been recorded for Shipstern.


Sustainability for Sarteneja lodges all records and supports the "Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System of Belize (BERDS)". Currently, BERDS has 7,109 species accounts (profiles) entered into the system, covering a wide variety of taxonomic, distributional and status/threats information.

Taken from BERDS - Belize has a very high biodiversity, especially considering that it is not more than 80 x 300 miles in size, and 24 thousand square miles in area. Belize is home to more than 150 species of mammals, 540 species of birds, 151 species of amphibians and reptiles, nearly 600 species of freshwater and marine fishes, untold numbers of invertebrates, and 3,408 species of vascular plants. Belize is unique, not only in the total number of species present, but also in the vast array of ecotypes and their species richness. Belize has mountains, plains, estuaries, and barrier coral reef, and the freshwater aquatic ecosystems that influence them including rivers, lakes, seasonally flooded plains, and coastal lagoons.

The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System (MBRS), stretching the full length of Belize's coastline, is the second largest in the world. The diversity of corals and related reef dwellers as well as the its sheer size, has qualified this reef to be declared a World Heritage Site, in recognition of its rich biodiversity and consequent global importance. However, the reef is suffering a massive decline in coral cover and reduced fish numbers. see Coral Reefs.

Belize also plays an integral part in the maintenance of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor (MBC), comprised of a network of protected areas linked by biological habitat corridors, stretching from Mexico to Panama. This wealth of biological diversity, coupled with a rich cultural heritage has made Belize a very popular tourist destination, providing significant economic benefits for the nation.



Land molluscs







Dragon flies and Damsel flies





Other invertebrates