Can the Chagos Archipelago keep pace with rising seas?

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Having first visited the Chagos Archipelago in 2006, it was an immense pleasure to return with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation under the auspices of the Global Reef Expedition. Returning to the archipelago offered the chance to continue work that had been initiated nearly a decade earlier by other scientists—monitoring of the fish assemblages and health of the coral—but also begin new science initiatives.

Following the discovery of a rich portfolio of vintage aerial photographs for the Chagos Archipelago taken in 1963, we are examining the dynamics of the coastlines of the many islands in the archipelago in an effort to understand how low-lying atoll islands respond to rising sea level. Largely uninhabited, Chagos is one of very few places in the world where the behavior of islands can be tracked in the absence of artificial coastline modifications. That is, “natural” island behavior can be quantified.


The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation produces high-resolution coral reef habitat maps of previously unmapped, remote coral reef systems around the world. The maps we create are a product of extensive scientific research. We use a process that involves …