Maldives Expedition Research

As I prepare to lead the 2010 Maldives trips, I am reminded of the distinct beauty of the place. The archipelago is comprised of twenty-two coral atolls including 1,200 separate isles and islets, only 200 of which are inhabited.

This spectacular island group in the Central Indian Ocean is an icon for scuba enthusiasts, a holy grail for snorkelers. For those who love warm tropical seas full of life, it is a breathtaking place. Even the planning and academic preparations are exciting.

Apart from a few island groups in the Western Pacific, the Maldives are more dependent on coral reefs for their very survival, than any other nation in the world. However, the rise in sea surface temperature, which peaked during the El NiƱo event of 1998, killed many of the reef building species. The good news is that nature is staging a comeback and the corals are recovering, albeit at different rates from one locality to another. There is also help in the form of “bioreefs,” manmade structures that are successfully attracting coral communities and the associated reef fishes.

In addition to the innovative research that is being carried out on corals, whale sharks, and manta rays, the Maldives has been at the forefront of the global issue of sea level change. There is much to learn and prepare for in anticipation of a sojourn to the Maldives.

To read more about research on the successful procreation of corals in the Maldives, these are two interesting online articles:

Maldives Nurses its Coral Reefs back to Life and Growing a Beach.


Hello Stan,

Thanks for your inquiry. It is great to receive this kind of commentary on our blog, it is exactly the sort of academic dialog we had hoped to generate. Your questions are certainly justified because we must anticipate coral bleaching during our expeditions to the Indian Ocean next year. The degree to which the amount of bleaching will change between now and then, I suspect cannot be predicted. Before I attempt a more detailed reply, I'd like to have a chance to peruse the two articles you mentioned, would you please provide us with the references. I have no idea what "Alert 1 Status" means and I am not familiar with any studies which expound on variations in coral bleaching between the northern and southern atolls of the Maldives, so I am very interested in reviewing the articles you mention.

In the event that a warming trend continues and bleaching was to be severe, corals generally do not die until the event is prolonged. In the Galapagos in the wake of the 82-83 ENSO, many of the corals died after the warm water event lasted more than 14 months. Although there were associated fluctuations in the population dynamics of the fishes it was sill great diving and snorkeling in the Galapagos--before, during and after the ENSO. I expect the same to be true in the Indian Ocean. Nevertheless, the impact on the fish communities of the Maldives is not something I am able to predict.

I will look forward to exchanging more information with you and encourage your comments. It would be ideal if you were willing to insert links to the articles you have referred to so that others following this blog might enter the discussion as well.

Fair Winds,

Jack Grove

I read from two scientific articles that the Maldives are experiencing coral bleaching only trumped by the 1998 El Nino. They say currently (Sept. 21) the waters are 2-3 degrees Celius higher, based upon location, above tolerance level. They both went on to say only the most southern of the Maldives have escaped Alert 1 status, whatever that means but it is in RED on the chart provided, where Melanesia is mostly a very light pink. They claim that this data is based upon on-site examination. Can it be true for it takes years for coral to regenerate of coral and the Dec. 2011 India, Sri Lanka, Maldives trip is only 14 months away?

Hi Pierre,

Nice to hear from you. Which trip will you be doing in September? I am on the Beyond Rapa Nui trip (Easter - Tahiti) but I am not staying aboard for the next leg.



Looking forward to diving with you again in Papeete in September, 2009.