THE SCIENCE CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
The science and conservation objective of the Maldives Mission are:
- Applied Research: To contribute to establishing a baseline of marine life and the state of the ocean in Maldives.
- Ocean Governance: To support the Maldives in successful implementation of improved ocean governance and Marine Spatial Planning with an initial spatial target of protecting 20% of Maldivian territorial waters.
Specific research objectives
- Contribute to a baseline of marine life by documenting habitats and organisms living at the surface to 1000 metres deep in Maldives.
- Expand the inventory of ocean life: to gather samples and create a new open-sourced catalogue of marine life inhabiting the Maldives
- Gather complementary ocean environmental data (geological, physical, chemical) and use to assess the drivers of biological communities.
- Explore connectivity across depth (0-1000 m) and geography (multiple locations – across the southern Atolls-Laamu and further south, with a focus on North Eastern sites)
- Explore the 1.5 degree channel (Addoo Kandu) seamount and inside N Huvadoo if conditions and time permit
Areas of specific scientific interest
Adaptations to sea-level rise: At depths around 120metres, the old beach line has been documented in the Maldives, dating from 20,000 years ago when sea levels rose following ice melt from the Last Glacial Maximum.
Deep reefs: the refuge of hope: From 130metres depths is the home of the Rariphotic Zone and the deep corals and reefs that act as a refuge to animals from shallower waters including unknown species of reef building corals. Globally, deep reefs have the same geographic range as shallow reefs but are largely unknown and unprotected.
Coral Reef Health: What remains of the Maldives land is a series of over 1000 atolls, coral structures built on the summits of a ridge of ancient sunken volcanoes. Coral reefs are one of the earliest and most significant ecological casualties of global warming. The reefs that surround the atolls are essential to life in the Maldives and help reduce the impacts from sea level rise and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms caused by climate destabilisation.
Health Check & Protection: Ocean life to support human life: With the two main pillars of the Maldivian economy being tourism and fishing, a healthy, prosperous and sustainable ocean is essential for the lives and livelihoods of all Maldivians. The first discoveries of ocean life from the surface to 1000 metres serve to establish a baseline health check to inform Government policies to protect an area of ocean equivalent in size to half of Germany.
Maldives: 'The Shark Spa’: With at least 40 shark and 18 ray species at the apex of the food chain in the Maldives ocean, their relative abundance at depth, is a critical indicator to determine ocean health.
Subsea Mountains: Folklore & Fisheries: Of the 100,000 seamounts above 1000 metres across the global ocean, only 300 have been biologically sampled. Maldives has 34 seamounts, that live in the heart of Maldivian folklore, and are critical tuna fisheries providing national food security. Research is focused on the first mapping and surveying of the Satho Rahaa seamount in the 1.5 degree channel.