Central America is the land area between South America and Mexico, bordered
by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The area
includes Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and
Panama. A table of Caribbean countries, capitals, population and area can be
Countryaah - Countries in Central America. The term Central America, which is often used synonymously, also
includes Mexico and the countries of the Caribbean.
Apart from Panama and Belize (formerly British Honduras), states have entered
into political and economic alliances several times since the secession from
Spain in the 1820's. Attempts to restore the Central American Union
(1823-approx. 1840) have been unsuccessful, however, just as the Organization of
Central American States (1951) and the Central American Common Market (1960)
have had only limited success in efforts to establish closer regional
Derogatoryly, the states are referred to as "banana republics", which partly
refers to a significant export of bananas, and partly used as a term for
countries where chaotic political conditions prevail.
Since the late 1800's. the countries, also known as the "backyard of the
United States", have at times been strongly influenced by the political,
economic and military influence of the United States.
Caribbean Sea, by-sea to the Atlantic Ocean, bounded on the east and north by
the Antilles arch, on the west and south by Central and South America; 1.94
million km2. The islands' original residents, the Caribbean, have
given the area its name.
The ocean is located in the tropical belt and has coral reefs along most
shores. The winds are quite constant, but the northeast trade is interrupted
every autumn by tropical hurricanes. Caribbean shipping includes Venezuelan oil
exports, Panama Canal transit traffic and Antilles tourism with a myriad of
pleasure craft and cruise ships.
The Caribbean Sea is part of the American Mediterranean (Mediterranean, ie a
larger sea area that separates the continents). It can be topographically
divided into the Yucatan Sea, the Cayman Tomb, the Colombian and Venezuelan
basins. The bottom depths are predominantly in the range 3000-6000 m, the
largest depth (Bartlett depth, 7200 m) is found in the Cayman tomb.
Current conditions are completely dominated by the inflow from the Atlantic
Ocean via the Guyana Current. This water, which comes from the North and South
Equatorial Streams, is 27-28 °C and very saline (36-37 ‰). From the Caribbean
Sea, it flows on to the Gulf of Mexico, where it joins Florida with the Antilles
to the Gulf Stream. At greater depths, there is water that originates from
immersion processes at resp. North Pole and Antarctica. This water has
temperatures of 2-5 °C and salinities around 34.9 ‰. As water exchange in the
bottom layer is to some extent prevented by the thresholds at the borders of the
Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico (approximately 1600 m), oxygen-free
conditions exist in certain deep areas of the Caribbean Sea, for example in the
Cariacodybet off Venezuela.
Biogeographically, the southernmost part of Florida, the Bahamas and
sometimes Bermuda in the Caribbean region are usually included, with fauna and
flora first changing north of these areas. In its natural state, the Caribbean
Sea is characterized by low levels of dissolved nutrients and low production of
phytoplankton. Therefore, the water is very clear and the sunlight can penetrate
to great depths. Some of the deepest living algae are described from here.
Three types of ecosystems are important in this area: coral reefs, seagrass
meadows and mangroves. Off the coast, coral reefs grow. Over 60 species of rock
corals are known from the area, but it is a few species that dominate most
places, such as the deer coral, Acropora. In the Caribbean Sea, there are
especially many species of the so-called "soft" corals (horn corals, octocorals,
gorgonias), e.g. the large branched sea fan Gorgonia ventalina. The limestone
spikes of the horn corals form a significant part of the bottom sediment in
Caribbean coral reef areas. Coral reefs are finely tuned ecosystems where many
different organisms occupy highly specialized niches. Microscopic algae live in
symbiosis with coral polyps. Coral reefs are also home to many seafood. Human
activities pose a threat to this ecosystem. Mass tourism and overfishing in
connection with population growth have, for example, meant that the coral reefs
around Jamaica in the period 1980-93 have been reduced by 90%. Some of the
fishing methods involve breaking large pieces of the coral. When the corals die,
the fish lose their habitat, after which large algae such as sargasso seaweed,
Sargassum, overgrow the reefs.
Seagrasses, such as turtle grass, Thalassia, form dense meadows. Here lives
the large snail Strombus gigas, which is considered a delicacy in the Caribbean,
and whose shells previously adorned many Danish gardens. Along many shores are
mangroves, which are extensive mud flats with large trees whose aerial roots
protrude from the mud. The mangroves are breeding grounds for fry of many fish.
Despite their outward beauty, many of the coral reef's residents are
stinging, burning, biting or poisonous. Among the stings, sea urchins can be
mentioned in particular, e.g. the long-spiked, black sea urchin Diadema with
spikes up to 30 cm long. Fire corals, Millepora, burn worse than wood jellyfish.
Biting animals include sharks, barracuda and moray eels. Especially around the
small islands, the neurotoxin ciguatera accumulates in the large predatory fish,
e.g. barracuda. The poison is not destroyed by heating and freezing and cannot
be tasted. Poisoning most often requires hospital treatment and it can take
years before the symptoms go away.
Wildlife in the deep waters of the Caribbean Sea is also very varied.
Recently, at approximately 3000 m depth in the Gulf of Mexico west of Florida
found a distinctive fauna associated with leaking methane and sulfide. Many of
these animals have symbiontic bacteria that can utilize hydrogen sulfide. Some
of the animals lack an intestinal tract and are completely dependent on the