A number of natural forests can be found on the Chagos islands, as well as a diverse range of flowering plant life.
It is probably less than 4,000 years since the islands had sufficient soil to support certain flora. Its native species consists of around 41 species of flowering plants, four ferns, and a variety of mosses, liverworts, fungi and cyanobacteria.
As many as 280 species of plants and ferns can now be found here. Some settled when spores and seeds were brought to the islands by sea and wind. Some have been left by seabirds, while humans have introduced others - either deliberately or accidentally.
Some of these are invasive, and have become a threat to the native ecosystem. While some of the more unspoiled islands boast unique pisonia forests and large clumps of the gigantic fish poison tree (Barringtonia asiatica), many of the native forests were felled to make way for coconut palms used for copra oil production.
By studying the unspoiled islands, we can benchmark our work to re-establish native plant-life on heavily-altered islands elsewhere in the archipelago and indeed globally.