Chagos Conservation Trust


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Plants

Coconut plantation (c) Anne and Charles Sheppard

The Chagos Islands have been colonised by plants since there was sufficient soil to support them – probably less than 4,000 years. Seeds and spores arrived on the emerging islands by wind and sea, or from passing sea birds. The native flora of the Chagos Islands is thought to comprise 41 species of flowering plants and 4 ferns as well as a wide variety of mosses, liverworts, fungi and cyanobacteria.

Today, the status of the Chagos Islands’ native flora depends very much on past exploitation of particular islands. About 280 species of flowering plants and ferns have now been recorded on the islands, but this increase reflects the introduction of non-native plants by humans, either accidentally or deliberately. Because some of these non-native species have become invasive and pose a threat to the native ecosystems, plans are being developed to control them. On some islands, native forests were felled to plant coconut palms for the production of copra oil. Other islands remain unspoiled and support a wide range of habitats, including unique Pisonia forests and large clumps of the gigantic fish poison tree (Barringtonia asiatica). Unspoiled islands provide us with the biological information that we need in order to re-establish the native plant communities on heavily altered islands.