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Coral Islands of the British Indian Ocean Territory (Chagos Archipelago)

  • Peter CarrEmail author
  • Jesse C. Hillman
  • Mark R. D. Seaward
  • Scott Vogt
  • Charles R. C. Sheppard
Chapter
Part of the Coral Reefs of the World book series (CORW, volume 4)

Abstract

The islands of the Chagos have never been connected to a continental land mass, are geologically young, low in relief, and are as remote as possible in the central Indian Ocean. The area permanently above water comprises <0.1 % of the Archipelago. These factors have led to an impoverished terrestrial flora and fauna with only a single endemic species, a moth, being discovered to date. Since the islands were first colonised in the late eighteenth Century ecological havoc has been wreaked upon the land through deforestation for lumber and to make way for coconut plantations coupled with the introduction of alien plants and animals. Coconut farming ceased in the late twentieth Century. The two anthropogenic influences still environmentally traumatising the terrestrial habitat are the unmanaged former coconut groves and the introduced invasive Black Rat Rattus rattus. Both are limiting the growth and expansion of terrestrial flora and flora in the absence of man. Despite the ravages of man for over two centuries, some, mainly rat-free islands remain havens for oceanic island biodiversity and hold flora and environmental conditions that sustain internationally important breeding populations of IUCN Red-listed sea turtles, Coconut Crab and seabirds. To date 12 islands have been identified as IUCN classified Important Bird Areas. Global threats such as sea level rise have the possibility of impacting the islands of the Chagos, however, this has not prevented plans for ecological restoration or rehabilitation of the islands from being drawn up. Under the newly created BIOT Marine Protected Area, restoration of some of the islands should be a matter of political will and funding.

Keywords

Coconut Palm Coconut Plantation Coral Island Vegetation Assemblage Important Bird Area 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

Some of this material was published previously in Sheppard et al. (2012) and is reproduced with permission of Wiley & Sons.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Carr
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jesse C. Hillman
    • 2
  • Mark R. D. Seaward
    • 3
  • Scott Vogt
    • 4
  • Charles R. C. Sheppard
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  2. 2.Spring CottageSouth AtlanticUK
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesUniversity of BradfordBradfordUK
  4. 4.Naval Facilities EngineeringFar East CommandYokosukaJapan

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