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The Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean
Sheppard, C.R.C. (2000). The Chagos Archipelago, central Indian Ocean, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. pp. 221-232
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 920 pp., more

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Document type: Review

Keyword
    Marine

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  • Sheppard, C.R.C.

Abstract
    The Chagos Archipelago is a collection of atolls and banks covering an area about 250 x 400 km in the centre of the tropical Indian Ocean. The islands are few and small, and support large numbers of nesting seabirds on most of the islands which are not infested with rats. There are about 50 indigenous species of higher plants, which have since been joined by over 200 more species since the islands were occupied about 250 years ago. Some islands which were not inhabited or planted with coconut still support good stands of natural Indian Ocean hardwoods. The marine habitat is mainly diverse coral reef with associated sandy areas; there are no mangroves and only patchy seagrass habitats. Even sandy habitat is very limited shallower than about 20 m deep and there are no muds within the photic zone. There is evidence from the high species richness that Chagos provides a significant stepping stone in the east-west oceanic passage of species, and is important in the maintenance of biodiversity in the Indian Ocean. The present uninhabited nature of most of these islands is the main reason for the richness and unimpacted nature of the marine habitats. There is a military facility in the southernmost atoll of Diego Garcia, but the other four atolls are uninhabited. All atolls up to the 1970s were farmed for copra, but human impacts did not, as far as can be judged, impact the marine life of the region. While limited fishing activity takes place, there is no industry , no tourism and, apart from Diego Garcia, very little visitation of any kind to the region, which has recently been declared as a Ramsar site with a view to long-term protection. Chagos may be regarded as one of the very few locations with no major human impact. However, following the rise in Indian Ocean temperature in 1998, the coral populations have collapsed.

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