From above, the emerald shades of the Selva Maya hint at the diversity of life teeming under mahogany and gum species, barely betraying that much of it is post-colonial regrowth, rivaled in tenure by the ancient stone ruins that rise above the treetops. In withstanding hundreds of years of threats, this Mesoamerican ecosystem is now the largest contiguous block of rainforest north of the Amazon, safeguarding treasures of incalculable value.
But aerial images from recent decades also show this forest receding at the edges, where it is increasingly logged for timber or slashed and burned for agriculture. Yet the true, underrecognized value of places like these, so globally rare they are known as “last-chance ecosystems,” is in the collective power of the intact system.
Wildlife habitat. Water security. Clean air. Climate mitigation and adaptation. In other words, $125 trillion in ecosystem services every year without which, we simply cannot survive.
That is why the purchase of 236,000 acres (96,000 ha) of the Selva Maya’s tropical forest in northwestern Belize—announced today by a multisector coalition including The Nature Conservancy, and enabled by a catalytic contribution from the Wyss Foundation—is so significant. Together with the Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area established in 1989, the new protected area represents nearly a tenth the land area of Belize and includes some of the most biodiversity-rich forest in the world.