Mountains of Diversity
It’s hard to believe you’re standing on a mountaintop when you’re just a few feet above sea level in the middle of the ocean. But if you traveled to the Maldives-Lakshadweep-Chagos Archipelago, an island chain in the Indian Ocean, that’s just where you’d be--on the tops of an underwater mountain chain capped with palm trees, creeping vines, crawling insects, and calling birds.
Each of the islands that makes up this ecoregion has a different pattern of vegetation. Most islands are ringed with shrubs and small trees that keep the beaches from eroding during storms and typhoons. On many of the islands, you’ll also find tropical plants such as the bird’s nest fern, a plant whose leaves form a basket or "nest" that catches falling water and plant debris. This nest will eventually form rich soil essential to the plant.
The Maldives-Lakshadweep-Chagos Archipelago Tropical Moist Forests provide habitats for a wide variety of seabirds and waterfowl, including sooty terns, boobies, and wedge-tailed shearwaters that either nest on the islands or use them as migration stop-over points. The islands are also home to a wide variety of invertebrates, including the native Saint Valentine’s Day moth and the coconut crab.
Cause for Concern
Although the islands are remote, this ecoregion faces a variety of threats from humans. The native plants and animals of many islands are threatened by introduced species. Rats accidentally brought to the islands on ships or airplanes pose especially serious threats to bird populations by eating eggs and young. Continued global warming could also threaten these low-lying islands with rising sea levels.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001