The Regional State of Coast Report for the western Indian Ocean (WIO) provides insights into the enormous economic potential around the WIO, the consequential demand for marine ecosystem goods and services to match the increasing human population, the pace and scale of environmental changes taking place in the region and the opportunities to avoid serious degradation in one of the world’s unique and highly biodiverse oceans.
The Western Indian Ocean contains 16% of the world’s coral reefs, and the region is now thought to host the second peak of coral reef biodiversity globally. Coral reef ecosystems underpin the economies of the countries in the region, particularly fisheries and tourism sectors, and provide livelihood opportunities and income for local communities.
The coastal ecosystem of the Indian Ocean includes environments such as mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs. These habitats are some of the most productive and diverse environments on the planet. They form an essential link in the food webs that leads to fish and other seafood providing food security to the local human population. In addition coral reefs and mangrove forests protect the coastal areas against erosion. Unfortunately, due to a number of human activities, these valuable environments are now being degraded at an alarming rate.
Corals as organisms and coral reefs as structures and ecosystems have fascinated scientists for centuries. Charles Darwin became well-known among natural scientists long before the publication of The Origin of Species, partly because of his studies of coral reefs and coral islands.