This blog explores the formation of the islands that make up the Maldives, the wildlife that resides within the islands and their waters, as well as the current and future initiatives that the country has to protects its fauna and flora.
The Republic of the Maldives is formed of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean, there are 26 geographical atolls. Male is the capital of the Maldives, and the total population was estimated at 394,000 in 2014. Only 200 islands are inhabited by Maldivian people, and almost 100 are resorts. The country is divided into seven provinces, which consist of atolls, islands and cities with their own local councils. The Republic of the Maldives is 90,000km2; 99% of this area is covered by the ocean. This is the flattest country in the world, with the highest point standing at 2.4m above sea level.
An atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef, often with a series of islets. The centre body of water found within an atoll is the lagoon, connected to the ocean through the channels between islets. The atolls of the Maldives are part of a greater geographic structure; the Laccadives-Chagos Ridge, this area of the world contains large intact reefs, rising from the sea bed through tectonic activity. Atolls are said begin as fringed reefs surrounding a volcanic island. Over time, and due to a series of natural events, (island subsidence, sea level rise etc) the sea begins to take over the central volcanic island. The reef surrounding the submerging island will construct coral at a rate that will ensure its survival despite sea level rise. It can take up to 30,000,000 years to create low lying, flat islands, surrounding coral reefs, and sandbanks as seen throughout the Maldives today.
Flora and fauna can vary vastly between atolls; therefore, the whole of the Maldives has a vast array of wildlife to be experienced. Terrestrial animals are limited on the islands, there are two species of fruit bat, which are of conservation concern. The islands are important for resident and breeding birds; up to fourteen seabirds are known to nest on Maldives. These include the Maldivian pond heron, white tern, and large-crested tern. There are also geckos, agamid lizards, short-headed frog, and a common toad, the wolf snake and blind snake which can be found throughout this country. Hermit crabs can easily be found on the beaches and there are other types of land crab too!
Marine life includes corals, over 2,000 species of fish including tuna which contribute to Maldivian fisheries, reef sharks, rays (manta ray, sting ray and eagle ray), whale sharks, sea turtles (green, hawksbill, leatherback, olive ridley and loggerhead), octopus, squid, clams, starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, jellyfish and anemones can all be found throughout the Republic.
For pictures and species fact files follow us on Instagram @atollvolunteers for #WildlifeWednesdays
There are 33 marine protected areas throughout the Maldives, the first was designated in 1995, containing Rasfari island, lagoon and surrounding reef in North Male. There are also five protected islands, designated because of their unique vegetation, nesting bird sites or mangroves. The most recent protected area in the Maldives is the Mendhoo region in 2011. Furthermore, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 the President announced the intention to declare the whole of the Maldives a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; this designation started within the Baa Atoll. As a nation consisting of islands throughout the Indian Ocean, the importance of the costal and marine ecosystems is paramount to ensure the survival and development of this country.This collection of islands found in the Indian Ocean truly is a gem of biodiversity, one which should be cherished and cared for through the designation of a Biosphere Reserve.
By Alexia Hemming