Drivers of coral reef condition in the Central Maldives using kilometre scale survey techniques from the XL Catlin Seaview Survey
Coral reefs are unique and valuable marine ecosystems, which support over 500 million people worldwide. Despite their importance, coral reefs are under tremendous threats from local (e.g. overfishing, eutrophication, marine pollution, and sedimentation) and global stressors (e.g. increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, and increased frequency/intensity of storm disturbances). The Maldives is an 820km archipelago chain made from the formation of coral reef atolls. The countries location in the middle of the Central Indian Ocean make it unique for its low levels of human influence, due to the relatively low population (approximately 350,000) and a lack of appetite and demand for herbivorous reef fish. However, a mass bleaching event in 1998 caused over 90% loss of hard coral cover throughout the entire Indian Ocean, including the Maldives.
This low-lying, small island nation is also highly vulnerable to sea level rise as a result of global warming from human induced climate change. In response to these threats, the Maldivian government has increased land reclamation activities in order to make certain islands larger, safer (higher), and more economically viable for larger populations to be moved from smaller islands. These destructive land use activities along with an increasing tourism demand have increased direct human influence on adjacent reef-scapes by increasing stressors such as sedimentation and increased nutrients from wastewater outlets. This project investigates the current state of coral reef ecosystems at 8-12 m depth off outer atoll forereefs and inner atoll islands in the Central Maldives, using methods from the XL Catlin Seaview Survey. The main aim of this project is to quantify how different levels of human land use activities and population pressures are influencing the distribution and abundance of corals in the Maldives.