The health of the world’s second-largest coral system, the Mesoamerican Reef spreading from Mexico to Central America, has taken a turn for the more severe and faces additional threats from climate change, based on a report by a group of scientists.
Extending almost 1,000 km (620 miles) from the northern tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula toward the Bay Islands in the north of Honduras, the Mesoamerican Reef is second in measurement only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Coral reefs grow over thousands of years and are crucial to the survival and prosperity of numerous marine species; however, many, along with the Great Barrier Reef, have been under strain from the changing climate scientists say.
The structures of coral reefs in the Western Hemisphere, also known as the Great Mayan Reef, witnessed its first decline in overall well-being since 2006, based on a study of 286 coral reef sites in Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras.
The Reef Health Index (RHI), which incorporates ecological data into a “Dow Jones”-style index, confirmed that the coral’s rating had fallen to 2.5 in 2018 from 2.8 in its earlier rating report in 2016.
The Mesoamerican Reef’s health had been enhancing since 2006 when scientists first started giving ratings to measure its general condition and awarded it a 2.3 rating that year.
The largest drop in reef health was due to significant decreases in commercial and herbivorous fish on the back of unsustainable fishing activities, particularly in Honduras, the report’s authors stated.