Gulf of Fonseca
The Gulf of Fonseca part of the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, is a gulf
Headlands and bays
Headlands and bays are two related features of the coastal environment.- Geology and geography :Headlands and bays are often found on the same coastline. A bay is surrounded by land on three sides, whereas a headland is surrounded by water on three sides. Headlands are characterized by high,...

 in Central America
Central America
Central America is the central geographic region of the Americas. It is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. When considered part of the unified continental model, it is considered a subcontinent...

, bordering El Salvador
El Salvador
El Salvador or simply Salvador is the smallest and the most densely populated country in Central America. The country's capital city and largest city is San Salvador; Santa Ana and San Miguel are also important cultural and commercial centers in the country and in all of Central America...

, Honduras
Honduras is a republic in Central America. It was previously known as Spanish Honduras to differentiate it from British Honduras, which became the modern-day state of Belize...

 and Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...



Fonseca Bay was discovered in 1522 by Gil Gonzalez de Avila
Gil González Dávila
Gil González Dávila was a Spanish Conquistador and the first European to arrive in present-day Nicaragua.González Dávila first appears in historical records in 1508, when he received a royal commission to examine accounts and tax records of estates. He probably traveled soon afterward to Santo...

, and named by him after his patron, Archbishop Juan Fonseca
Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca
Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca was a Spanish bishop, a courtier and bureaucrat whose position as chaplain to Queen Isabella enabled him to become a powerful counsellor to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs...

, the implacable enemy of Columbus.

In 1849, E. G. Squier
E. G. Squier
Ephraim George Squier was an American archaeologist and newspaper editor.-Biography:He was born in Bethlehem, New York, the son of a minister of English heritage and his Palatine German wife. In early youth he worked on a farm, attended and taught school, studied engineering, and became interested...

 negotiated a treaty for the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 to build a canal across Honduras from the Caribbean Sea
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 to the Gulf. Frederick Chatfield, the British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 commander in Central America, was afraid that American presence in Honduras would destabilize the British Mosquito Coast
Mosquito Coast
The Caribbean Mosquito Coast historically consisted of an area along the Atlantic coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras, and part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskito Indians and long dominated by British interests...

, and sent his fleet to occupy El Tigre Island
El Tigre Island
El Tigre is an island located in the Gulf of Fonseca, a body of water on the Pacific coast of Central America. The island is a conical basaltic stratovolcano and the southernmost volcano in Honduras. It belongs to Valle department...

 at the entrance to the Gulf. Shortly thereafter, however, Squier demanded the British leave, since he had anticipated the occupation and negotiated the island's temporary cession to the United States. Chatfield could only comply.

All three countries—Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua—with coastline along the Gulf have been involved in a lengthy dispute over the rights to the Gulf and the islands located within. In 1992, a chamber of the International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. It is based in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands...

 (ICJ) decided the Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute, of which the Gulf dispute was a part. The ICJ determined that El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua were to share control of the Gulf of Fonseca. El Salvador was awarded the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita, while Honduras was awarded El Tigre island.

Physical geography

The Gulf of Fonseca covers an area of approximately 3200 square kilometres (1,235.5 sq mi), with a coastline that extends for 261 kilometres (162.2 mi), of which 185 kilometres (115 mi) are in Honduras, 40 kilometres (24.9 mi) in Nicaragua, and 29 kilometres (18 mi) in El Salvador.

The climate in the Gulf is typical of tropical and subtropical regions, with two distinct seasons, the rainy and the dry. The Gulf receives nearly 80% of its total yearly rainfall of 1400 –) during the rainy season from May to November. The dry season occurs between December and May and contributes to an annual evaporation rate of 2800 millimetres (110.2 in). As a result of less water flowing into the Gulf, the currents tend to flow inward from the Pacific Ocean, and levels of salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water. It is a general term used to describe the levels of different salts such as sodium chloride, magnesium and calcium sulfates, and bicarbonates...

 in the estuaries
An estuary is a partly enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea....

 increase, and seasonal drought occurs.

Temperatures in the Gulf average between 25 and 30 °C; March and April are the warmest months and November and December the coolest. Relative humidity varies between 65 and 86% depending on location. In contrast, the interior of the country is semi-tropical and cooler with an average temperature of 26 °C.

The vegetation of the wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 is dominated by species of mangrove
Mangroves are various kinds of trees up to medium height and shrubs that grow in saline coastal sediment habitats in the tropics and subtropics – mainly between latitudes N and S...

s. Of the six species of mangrove identified in the Gulf, Red Mangrove (Rhizophora mangle
Rhizophora mangle
Rhizophora mangle, known as the red mangrove, is distributed in estuarine ecosystems throughout the tropics. Its viviparous "seeds," in actuality called propagules, become fully mature plants before dropping off the parent tree...

) is the most common, mostly occupying the areas permanently inundated by the tides. Black Mangrove (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza
Bruguiera gymnorrhiza is a small tree up to 10 m high and belongs to the family Rhizophoraceae. It is found on the seaward side of mangrove swamps, often in the company of Rhizophora. Bark is rough and reddish-brown. The tree develops short prop-roots rather than long stilt-roots. Flowers are...

) is the second most pervasive species and is generally found around the rivers where sediments are deposited along the shoreline. White Mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa
Laguncularia racemosa
Laguncularia racemosa is a species of flowering plant in the leadwood tree family, Combretaceae...

) is the third most dominant, followed by Botoncillo (Conocarpus erectus); both are generally found further inland and are inundated by the tide less frequently. The dominance of different species over others correlates with the frequency of inundations, water quality, and levels of salinity.

The cycle of tides is 2.3 metres (7.5 ft) on average per day in the Gulf. During low tides the soils are inhabited by crab
True crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting "tail" , or where the reduced abdomen is entirely hidden under the thorax...

s, conch
A conch is a common name which is applied to a number of different species of medium-sized to large sea snails or their shells, generally those which are large and have a high spire and a siphonal canal....

, and other species. During the high tide the mangrove forests serve as a feeding ground and habitat for fish, shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

, and other species, as the root structure of mangroves provide a refuge from larger predators.
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