Monaco Explorations steps up coral research in Aldabra Atoll World Heritage area
From 19 to 25 October 2022, the Monaco Explorations mission conducted a series of scientific operations around Aldabra Atoll (Seychelles) with the aim of better understanding and protecting the coral reefs of this UNESCO World Marine Heritage site and promoting youth involvement. On this occasion, H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco visited Aldabra Atoll on 24 and 25 October. The site was one of the highlights of the Monaco Explorations mission, which took place in this area of the Indian Ocean from 3 October to 30 November 2022.
An international and multidisciplinary team of nearly 100 oceanographers and 44 crew members arrived at Aldabra Atoll on 19 October aboard the S.A. Agulhas II, a South African research and supply vessel chartered by the Monaco Explorations. The research was organised in close collaboration with the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which is responsible for the management of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
“Aldabra is a natural gem but its ecosystem is fragile and threatened with marine debris on its beaches and a coral reef that suffers from repeated bleaching episodes due to climate change.”
During this stopover, numerous scientific operations were carried out, starting with the collection of plastic litter and microplastics for the study of pathogenic germs on the reefs, the study of turtle populations, the mapping of the shallow lagoon waters or the inventory of biodiversity using connected boards and drones by IFREMER teams. A team from the Zoological Society of London, in collaboration with the Seychelles Islands Foundation, collected coral samples for DNA analysis, carried out video inventories of the underwater fauna and flora up to 700 meters of depth through the use of a remotely operated robot, a first in Aldabra. Teams from the Monaco Oceanographic Institute, Océanopolis (France) and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) collected some live coral cuttings as part of the World Coral Conservatory, whose aim is to safeguard and study all the coral species existing in the oceans.
The Monaco Explorations mission to Aldabra concluded with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Seychelles Islands Foundation, the Monaco Scientific Centre and the Monaco Oceanographic Institute with the aim of increasing knowledge about the resilience of the reefs in the World Heritage site.
“This visit by Prince Albert II of Monaco is important for us. It lays the foundations for a promising scientific collaboration and sends a strong signal to the rest of the world.”
During the S.A. Agulhas II's stopover in Port Victoria between 29 and 31 October 2022, 200 Seychellois schoolchildren visited the ship to find out about the mission's scientific work and take part in workshops with the scientists and artists on board. One of the Seychellois classes "adopted" the Argo surveillance robot offered by the Principality of Monaco to Seychelles and will follow its journey throughout the 2022-2023 school year thanks to the Adopt a Float educational programme.
About Monaco Explorations
Since 2017, the Principality of Monaco supports the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme to strengthen the conservation and scientific understanding of marine sites on the World Heritage List. Other marine World Heritage sites visited by Monaco Explorations missions include the Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (Colombia) in 2018, the Lagoons of New Caledonia: Reef Diversity and Associated Ecosystems (France) in 2019 and the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau) in 2019.
About Aldabra Atoll
Aldabra Atoll was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982 for its array of colours that contribute to the aesthetic and scenic appeal of the atoll, and as a biodiversity refuge for over 400 endemic species and subspecies. These include the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, a globally important breeding population of endangered green turtles, one of the world's only two oceanic flamingo populations, and coral species which thrive in a pristine fringing reef system.