British Indian Ocean Territory

About

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) comprises the 55 islands of the Chagos Archipelago. The land area is only 44 km2. But, below the territorial seas lie over 20,000km2 of coral reefs – a near-pristine treasure store of marine life. The islands are now uninhabited, except Diego Garcia which is used by the US and UK for military purposes. The Chagos Bank is the largest atoll in the world, partly submerged, but with some very shallow features including small islands on its northern and western rim. The archipelago possesses an exceptionally low level of pollution and provides a standard for measuring the impact of human pressures on other reef systems.

Most of the islands are classic coralline composed of coral rock and sand. However, in southern Peros Banhos and north-western Great Chagos Bank, there are a few small islands which have undergone minor uplift to heights of about 6m above sea level. On Eagle Island, there is an unusual feature of a peat deposit on a coral atoll. Many of the islands have lost their native vegetation as a result of conversion to coconut plantations. Now abandoned, these have remained, although patches of native hardwood remain and The Brothers have very small, but almost entirely undisturbed, coral-island-hardwood forests.

The waters around Chagos are breeding and feedings grounds for marine turtles, whales, sharks, dolphins and over 1,000 species of fish. They have approximately 220 species of corals.

The islands are home to large colonies of sea-birds, including the red-footed booby Sula sula, as well as to the coconut crab Birgus latro. They provide nesting sites for green turtles Chelonia mydas and the endangered hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricate.

The archipelago is very diverse, with a range of coral atolls, banks and reefs. The reefs are rich in benthic and pelagic life and represent some of the least disturbed reefs in the Indian Ocean basin.

Scientific expeditions continue to survey species, habitats and communities on the coral reefs, the most recent having taken place in April 2014.

Read more about the wildlife, history and cultural heritage of all of the UK Overseas Territories in the 704 page Britain’s Treasure Islands book (CLICK HERE).

Watch 42 ‘mini-documentaries’ that explore the wildlife, cultures and history of all of the UK Overseas Territories (CLICK HERE). 

Map

Video

British Indian Ocean Territory – wildlife and heritage

 

British Indian Ocean Territory – coconut crabs

 

British Indian Ocean Territory – seabirds

 

British Indian Ocean Territory – underwater

 

Read more about the wildlife, history and cultural heritage of all of the UK Overseas Territories in the 704 page Britain’s Treasure Islands book (CLICK HERE).

Watch 42 ‘mini-documentaries’ that explore the wildlife, cultures and history of all of the UK Overseas Territories (CLICK HERE).