The Last Great Coral Reef Wilderness

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation led a research mission to study reefs in the last great coral reef wilderness on Earth, traveling to the Chagos Archipelago in 2015 as part of the Global Reef Expedition. This scientific research mission circumnavigated the globe to address the coral reef crisis and gain a better understanding of the health and resiliency of coral reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Over the course of two months at sea, scientists aboard the Global Reef Expedition conducted thousands of surveys of the benthic and reef fish communities at over 100 locations across the Chagos Archipelago. Only a handful of research missions have had the opportunity to explore the reefs of Chagos, and some of the reefs visited on the Expedition had never been surveyed by scientists before.

One priority for the Global Reef Expedition was to study reefs with minimal human disturbance, and there was no better place on Earth to do that than the Chagos Archipelago. Some estimates indicate these reefs could contain more than half of the healthy reefs remaining in the Indian Ocean. Because of its remote location and protected status, Chagos was the perfect place to explore global issues such as climate change and overfishing that threaten the long-term survival of coral reefs. By studying these relatively pristine reefs, the scientists wanted to add to their knowledge about the coral reef crisis, and were eager to see how coral reefs could thrive without the impacts of these other major disturbances.