Aldabra Atoll

With a land area of 155.4 km2, Aldabra Atoll (9.24S, 46.22E) is the second-largest raised limestone atoll in the world, but is an average of only 6–8 metres above sea level. Aldabra is managed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), and its only human population is a permanently manned research station. The climate is subtropical with distinct dry and wet seasons. The vegetation is covered a mosaic of open grassland, low-canopy mixed scrub, and dense Pemphis scrub. Mangrove forests fringe the large central lagoon. Aldabra is home to 100.000 giant tortoises, making it the world’s last ecosystem where the dominant vertebrate is a reptile. These animals exert a massive pressure on the vegetation, and the structure of several of the plant communities is thought to be determined by this. In 2011, the Zurich–Aldabra Research Platform (ZARP) was launched by a small group of researchers at the IEU, together with SIF, as an interdisciplinary long-term research partnership to study the terrestrial ecology of Aldabra Atoll and provide scientific guidance on the management of its biodiversity in a rapidly changing world.