Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • H. M. Baden (a1) (a2) (a3), T. Särkinen (a3), D. A. Conde (a1) (a2) (a4), A. C. Matthews (a5), H. Vandrot (a6), S. Chicas (a7), C. Pennil (a8), W. D. R. Bayly (a9), R. Chance (a9), S. G. M. Bridgewater (a3) and D. J. Harris (a3)...


The Chiquibul Forest Reserve and National Park in Belize is a priority conservation area within the ‘Maya Forest’ in Central America. Although taxonomic data are essential for the development of conservation plans in the region, there is limited knowledge of the existing species in the area. Here we present a botanical species list of mostly woody taxa based on voucher specimens, with particular focus on the Raspaculo watershed in the eastern part of the National Park. Within the Raspaculo watershed, a comparison is made between 0.1 ha of valley floor and 0.1 ha of hilltop vegetation, sampling trees, shrubs, palms and lianas ≥2.5 cm diameter at breast height. Additionally, a 1 ha plot was established in the Upper Raspaculo watershed. Our study shows 38 new species records for the region, and important additions to the flora of Belize. New records were recorded from forests on both metamorphic and karstic substrate, including previously overlooked hilltop forest elements. Quantitative assessment of vegetation across elevation zones shows distinct elements dominating on valley floors and hilltops. Our results show that the Chiquibul contains at least 58% of Belize’s threatened plant species, and represent a source of information for the management and conservation of the area.


Corresponding author

*Author for correspondence. E-mail:


Hide All
Areces-Mallea, A. E., Weakley, A. S., Li, X., Sayre, R. G., Parrish, J. D., Tipton, C. V. & Boucher, T. (1999). A Guide to Caribbean Vegetation Types: Preliminary Classification System and Descriptions. The Nature Conservancy.
Balick, M. J., Nee, M. H. & Atha, D. H. (2000). Checklist of the vascular plants of Belize with common names and uses. Mem. New York Bot. Gard. 85. 246 pp.
Bateson, J. H. & Hall, I. H. S. (1977). The geology of the Maya Mountains. Overseas Mem. Inst. Geol. Science 3: 143.
Bhattacharyaa, T., Beacha, T. & Wahl, D. (2011). An analysis of modern pollen rain from the Maya lowlands of northern Belize. Rev. Palaeobot. Palynol. 164(1–2): 109120.
Bird, N. M. (1998). Sustaining the Yield: Improved timber harvesting practices in Belize 1992–1998. Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich.
Boero, F. (2010). The study of species in the era of biodiversity: a tale of stupidity. Diversity 2: 115126.
Brewer, S. W. (2013). Plant diversity and vegetation. In: A Rapid Multi-taxa Assessment of ‘Oak Ridge’, an Unusual Ridge System in the North-central Bladen Nature Reserve, pp. 116. Copperhead Environmental Consulting, Inc. for Belize Forest Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and Ya’axché Conservation Trust.
Brewer, S. W., Rejmánek, M., Webb, M. A. H. & Fine, P. V. A. (2003). Relationships of phytogeography and diversity of tropical tree species with limestone topography in southern Belize. J. Biogeogr. 30: 16691688.
Bridgewater, S. G. M., Harris, D. J., Whitefoord, C., Monro, A. K., Penn, M. G., Sutton, D. A., Sayer, B., Adams, B., Balick, M. J., Atha, D. H., Solomon, J. & Holst, B. K. (2006a). A preliminary checklist of the vascular plants of the Chiquibul Forest, Belize. Edinburgh J. Bot. 63(2&3): 269321.
Bridgewater, S. G. M., Pickles, P., Garwood, N. C., Penn, M., Bateman, R. M., Porter Morgan, H., Wicks, N. & Bol, N. (2006b). Chamaedorea (Xaté) in the Greater Maya Mountains and the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, Belize: an economic assessment of a Non-Timber Forest Product. Econ. Bot. 60(3): 265283.
Briggs, V. S., Mazzotti, F. J., Harvey, R. G., Barnes, T. K., Manzanero, R., Meerman, J. C., Walker, P. & Walker, Z. (2013). Conceptual ecological model of the Chiquibul/Maya Mountain Massif, Belize. Human Ecol. Risk Assess. 19: 317340.
Brummitt, R. K. & Powell, C. E. (1992). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Chamberlain, S. & Szocs, E. (2013). taxize – taxonomic search and retrieval in R. F1000Research 2: 191.
Chamberlain, S., Szocs, E., Boettiger, C., Ram, K., Bartomeus, I. & Baumgartner, J. (2014). taxize: Taxonomic information from around the web. R package version 0.3.0.
Cherrington, E. A., Ek, E., Cho, P., Howell, B. F., Hernandez, B. E., Anderson, E. R., Flores, A. I., Garcia, B. C., Sempris, E. & Irwin, D. E. (2010). Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize: 1980–2010. Technical report. Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean/NASA/Belize Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment. Panama City, Panama. 42 pp.
Cherrington, E. A., Cho, P., Waight, I., Santos, T. Y., Escalante, A. E., Nabet, J. & Usher, L. (2012). Executive Summary: Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize, 2010–2012. SERVIR (El Sistema Regional de Visualización y Monitoreo) & Belmopan, Belize: CATHALAC (El Centro del Agua del Trópico Húmedo para América Latina y el Caribe). 6 pp.
Cho, P., Blackburn, G. A., Bird, N. M., Brewer, S. W. & Barlow, J. (2013). The FORMNET-B database: monitoring the biomass and dynamics of disturbed and degraded tropical forests. J. Veg. Sci. 24(6): 12041207.
Conservation International (2004). Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. Ecosystem Profile: Northern Region of the Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot. Report, Conservation International, Mexico and Central American Program.
Conservation International (2010). Assessing Five Years of CEPF Investment in the Mesoamerica Biodiversity Hotspot, Northern Mesoamerica. Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund: A Special Report, January 2010:
Cornejo, X. & Iltis, H. H. (2008). The reinstatement of Capparidastrum (Capparaceae). Harvard Pap. Bot. 13(2): 229236.
Dubbin, W. E., Penn, M. G. & Hodson, M. E. (2006). Edaphic influences on plant community adaptation in the Chiquibul forest of Belize. Geoderma 131(1–2): 7688.
Flora Mesoamericana (2014). W3FM – Flora Mesoamericana Online: (accessed 22 July 2014).
Friends for Conservation and Development (2011). (accessed 22 February 2014).
Gentry, A. H. (1982a). Neotropical floristic diversity: phytogeographical connections between Central and South America, Pleistocene climatic fluctuations, or an accident in the Andean orogeny? Ann. Missouri Bot. Gard. 69: 557593.
Gentry, A. H. (1982b). Patterns of Neotropical plant species diversity. In: Hecht, M. K., Wallace, B. & Prance, G. T. (eds): Evol. Biol. 15: 184.
Gischler, E., Shinn, E. A., Oschmann, W., Fiebig, J. & Buster, N. A. (2008). A 1500-year Holocene Caribbean climate archive from the Blue Hole, Lighthouse Reef, Belize. J. Coastal Res. 246: 14951505.
Grenyer, R., Orme, C. D. L., Jackson, S. F., Thomas, G. H., Davies, R. G., Davies, T. J., Jones, K. E., Olson, V. A., Ridgely, R. S., Rasmussen, P. C., Ding, T.-S., Bennett, P. M., Blackburn, T. M., Gaston, K. J., Gittleman, J. L. & Owens, I. P. F. (2006). Global distribution and conservation of rare and threatened vertebrates. Nature 444: 9396.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2014). Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2: Table 6b; last updated 24 July 2014.
Iremonger, S. & Brokaw, N. V. L. (1995). Vegetation classification for Belize. In: Wilson, R. (ed.) Towards a National Protected Area Systems Plan for Belize, Synthesis Report. 114 pp. + app. Appendix 1.2 Programme for Belize, Belize City, Belize.
Joppa, L. N., Visconti, P., Jenkins, C. N. & Pimm, S. L. (2013). Achieving the Convention on Biological Diversity’s goals for plant conservation. Science 341: 11001103.
Kelly, D. L., Tanner, E. V. J., Kapos, V., Dickinson, T. A., Goodfriend, G. A. & Fairbairn, P. (1988). Jamaican limestone forests: floristics, structure and environment of three examples along a rainfall gradient. J. Trop. Ecol. 4: 121156.
Kim, K. C. & Byrne, L. B. (2006). Biodiversity loss and the taxonomic bottleneck: emerging biodiversity science. Ecol. Res. 21: 794810.
Kueny, J. A. & Day, M. J. (1998). An assessment of protected karst landscapes in the Caribbean. Caribbean Geogr. 9(2): 87100.
Kueny, J. A. & Day, M. J. (2002). Designation of protected karstlands in Central America: a regional assessment. J. Cave Karst Studies 64(3): 165174.
Meerman, J. C. (2007). Establishing a Baseline to Monitor Species and Key Biodiversity Areas in Belize.
Meerman, J. C. & Clabaugh, J. (eds) (2015). Biodiversity and Environmental Resource Data System of Belize.
Meerman, J. C. & Sabido, W. (2001). Central American Ecosystems: Belize. Programme for Belize, Belize City. 2 volumes, 50 + 88 pp.
Minty, C. D., Sutton, D. A., Rogers, A. D. F., Bateman, R. M., Penn, M. G., Stafford, P. J. & Sanders, L. M. (2001). Wildlife Impact Assessment: Macal River upper storage facility. The Natural History Museum, London.
Mori, A. S., Boom, B. N., Carvalho, A. M. & Santos, T. S. (1983). Southern Bahian moist forests. Bot. Rev. 49(2): 155232.
Myers, N., Mittermeier, R. A., Mittermeier, C. G., Da Fonseca, G. A. B. & Kent, J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853858.
Penn, M. G., Sutton, D. A. & Monro, A. (2004). Vegetation of the Greater Maya Mountains, Belize. Syst. Biodivers. 2: 2144.
Pennington, T. D. & Muellner, A. N. (2010). A monograph of Cedrela (Meliaceae): 1112.
Pérez, L., Bugja, R., Lorenschat, J., Brenner, M., Curtis, J., Hoelzmann, P., Islebe, G., Scharf, B. & Schwalb, A. (2011). Aquatic ecosystems of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), Belize, and Guatemala. Hydrobiologia 661: 407433.
Phillips, O. & Baker, T. (2002). RAINFOR – Field manual for plot establishment and remeasurement.
Phillips, O. & Miller, J. S. (2002). Global patterns of plant diversity: Alwyn H. Gentry’s Forest Transect Data Set. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 98: 615.
Rogers, A. D. F. (2001). Report of the New Millennium Expedition: The year 2000 Joint Services Scientific expedition to the Upper Raspaculo, Maya Mountains, and limestone karst of the western Chiquibul area, Belize. Natural History Museum, London.
Rogers, A. D. F. & Sutton, D. A. (1991). Report of the Joint Services Scientific Expedition to the Upper Raspaculo (Maya Mountains, Belize), January – February 1991. Science Coordination: The Natural History Museum, London.
Rogers, A. D. F., Sutton, D. A. & Stafford, P. J. (1994). Report of the Joint Services Scientific Expedition to the Upper Raspaculo River, Belize, Central America, April – June 1993. Science Coordination: The Natural History Museum, London.
Roskov, Y., Kunze, T., Orrell, T., Abucay, L., Paglinawan, L., Culham, A., Bailly, N., Kirk, P., Bourgoin, T., Baillargeon, G., Decock, W., De Wever, A. & Didžiulis, V. (eds) (2014). Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life, 2014 Annual Checklist. Digital resource at Species 2000: Naturalis, Leiden, the Netherlands.
The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (2009). An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 161: 105121.
Trejo-Torres, J. C. & Ackerman, J. D. (2002). Composition patterns of Caribbean limestone forests: Are parsimony, classification, and ordination analyses congruent? Biotropica 34(4): 502515.
TROPICOS (2014).; /13036891; /17801048 (accessed 29 July 2014). Missouri Botanical Garden.
Urban, L., Bridgewater, S. & Harris, D. (2006). The Macal River: a floristic and phytosociological study of a threatened riverine vegetation community in Belize. Edinburgh J. Bot. 63: 95118.
Wendt, T. (1993). Composition, floristic affinities, and origins of the canopy tree flora of the Mexican Atlantic slope rain forests. In: Ramamoorthy, T. P., Bye, R., Lot, A. & Fa, J. (eds) Biological Diversity of Mexico: Origins and Distribution. Oxford University Press, New York, Oxford.
Young, C. (2008). Belize’s ecosystems: threats and challenges to conservation in Belize. Trop. Conserv. Sci. 1(1): 1833.



  • H. M. Baden (a1) (a2) (a3), T. Särkinen (a3), D. A. Conde (a1) (a2) (a4), A. C. Matthews (a5), H. Vandrot (a6), S. Chicas (a7), C. Pennil (a8), W. D. R. Bayly (a9), R. Chance (a9), S. G. M. Bridgewater (a3) and D. J. Harris (a3)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed