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Concept: Maldives


Sea-level rise and climatic change threaten the existence of atoll nations. Inundation and erosion are expected to render islands uninhabitable over the next century, forcing human migration. Here we present analysis of shoreline change in all 101 islands in the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu. Using remotely sensed data, change is analysed over the past four decades, a period when local sea level has risen at twice the global average (~3.90 ± 0.4 mm.yr-1). Results highlight a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), despite sea-level rise, and land area increase in eight of nine atolls. Island change has lacked uniformity with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. Results challenge perceptions of island loss, showing islands are dynamic features that will persist as sites for habitation over the next century, presenting alternate opportunities for adaptation that embrace the heterogeneity of island types and their dynamics.

Concepts: Oceanography, Climate change, Pacific Ocean, Maldives, Island, Atoll, Islands, Tuvalu


While shark-based tourism is a rapidly growing global industry, there is ongoing controversy about the effects of provisioning on the target species. This study investigated the effect of feeding on whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) at a provisioning site in Oslob, Cebu, in terms of arrival time, avoidance and feeding behaviour using photo-identification and focal follows. Additionally, compliance to the code of conduct in place was monitored to assess tourism pressure on the whale sharks. Newly identified sharks gradually arrived earlier to the provisioning site after their initial sighting, indicating that the animals learn to associate the site with food rewards. Whale sharks with a long resighting history showed anticipatory behaviour and were recorded at the site on average 5 min after the arrival of feeder boats. Results from a generalised linear mixed model indicated that animals with a longer resighting history were less likely to show avoidance behaviour to touches or boat contact. Similarly, sequential data on feeding behaviour was modelled using a generalised estimating equations approach, which suggested that experienced whale sharks were more likely to display vertical feeding behaviour. It was proposed that the continuous source of food provides a strong incentive for the modification of behaviours, i.e., learning, through conditioning. Whale sharks are large opportunistic filter feeders in a mainly oligotrophic environment, where the ability to use novel food sources by modifying their behaviour could be of great advantage. Non-compliance to the code of conduct in terms of minimum distance to the shark (2 m) increased from 79% in 2012 to 97% in 2014, suggesting a high tourism pressure on the whale sharks in Oslob. The long-term effects of the observed behavioural modifications along with the high tourism pressure remain unknown. However, management plans are traditionally based on the precautionary principle, which aims to take preventive actions even if data on cause and effect are still inconclusive. Hence, an improved enforcement of the code of conduct coupled with a reduction in the conditioning of the whale sharks through provisioning were proposed to minimise the impacts on whale sharks in Oslob.

Concepts: Psychology, Maldives, Shark, Megafauna, Basking shark, Whale shark, Filter feeder, Megamouth shark


Coral reefs are diverse ecosystems that support millions of people worldwide by providing coastal protection from waves. Climate change and human impacts are leading to degraded coral reefs and to rising sea levels, posing concerns for the protection of tropical coastal regions in the near future. We use a wave dissipation model calibrated with empirical wave data to calculate the future increase of back-reef wave height. We show that, in the near future, the structural complexity of coral reefs is more important than sea-level rise in determining the coastal protection provided by coral reefs from average waves. We also show that a significant increase in average wave heights could occur at present sea level if there is sustained degradation of benthic structural complexity. Our results highlight that maintaining the structural complexity of coral reefs is key to ensure coastal protection on tropical coastlines in the future.

Concepts: Oceanography, Coral reef, Ecosystem, Climate change, Atmospheric pressure, Maldives, Ocean, Coastal and oceanic landforms


Sea-surface temperature (SST) warming events, which are projected to increase in frequency and intensity with climate change, represent major threats to coral reefs. How these events impact reef carbonate budgets, and thus the capacity of reefs to sustain vertical growth under rising sea levels, remains poorly quantified. Here we quantify the magnitude of changes that followed the ENSO-induced SST warming that affected the Indian Ocean region in mid-2016. Resultant coral bleaching caused an average 75% reduction in coral cover (present mean 6.2%). Most critically we report major declines in shallow fore-reef carbonate budgets, these shifting from strongly net positive (mean 5.92 G, where G = kg CaCO3 m(-2) yr(-1)) to strongly net negative (mean -2.96 G). These changes have driven major reductions in reef growth potential, which have declined from an average 4.2 to -0.4 mm yr(-1). Thus these shallow fore-reef habitats are now in a phase of net erosion. Based on past bleaching recovery trajectories, and predicted increases in bleaching frequency, we predict a prolonged period of suppressed budget and reef growth states. This will limit reef capacity to track IPCC projections of sea-level rise, thus limiting the natural breakwater capacity of these reefs and threatening reef island stability.

Concepts: Oceanography, Coral, Coral reef, Climate change, Indian Ocean, Maldives, Ocean, Current sea level rise


Coral reefs on remote islands and atolls are less exposed to direct human stressors but are becoming increasingly vulnerable because of their development for geopolitical and military purposes. Here we document dredging and filling activities by countries in the South China Sea, where building new islands and channels on atolls is leading to considerable losses of, and perhaps irreversible damages to, unique coral reef ecosystems. Preventing similar damage across other reefs in the region necessitates the urgent development of cooperative management of disputed territories in the South China Sea. We suggest using the Antarctic Treaty as a positive precedent for such international cooperation.

Concepts: Coral, Coral reef, Maldives, South China Sea, Coastal and oceanic landforms, Islands, Spratly Islands, South China Sea Islands


Located only a short distance off the southernmost shore of the Greater Indian subcontinent, the island of Sri Lanka has long been inhabited by various ethnic populations. Mainly comprising the Vedda, Sinhalese (Up- and Low-country) and Tamil (Sri Lankan and Indian); their history of settlements on the island and the biological relationships among them have remained obscure. It has been hypothesized that the Vedda was probably the earliest inhabitants of the area, followed by Sinhalese and Tamil from the Indian mainland. This study, in which 271 individuals, representing the Sri Lankan ethnic populations mentioned, were typed for their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) hypervariable segment 1 (HVS-1) and part of hypervariable segment 2 (HVS-2), provides implications for their settlement history on the island. From the phylogenetic, principal coordinate and analysis of molecular variance results, the Vedda occupied a position separated from all other ethnic people of the island, who formed relatively close affiliations among themselves, suggesting a separate origin of the former. The haplotypes and analysis of molecular variance revealed that Vedda people’s mitochondrial sequences are more related to the Sinhalese and Sri Lankan Tamils' than the Indian Tamils' sequences. MtDNA haplogroup analysis revealed that several West Eurasian haplogroups as well as Indian-specific mtDNA clades were found amongst the Sri Lankan populations. Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 7 November 2013; doi:10.1038/jhg.2013.112.

Concepts: DNA, Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tamil language, Tamil people, Jaffna, Sinhalese people


Climate-induced disturbances are contributing to rapid, global-scale changes in coral reef ecology. As a consequence, reef carbonate budgets are declining, threatening reef growth potential and thus capacity to track rising sea-levels. Whether disturbed reefs can recover their growth potential and how rapidly, are thus critical research questions. Here we address these questions by measuring the carbonate budgets of 28 reefs across the Chagos Archipelago (Indian Ocean) which, while geographically remote and largely isolated from compounding human impacts, experienced severe (>90%) coral mortality during the 1998 warming event. Coral communities on most reefs recovered rapidly and we show that carbonate budgets in 2015 average +3.7 G (G = kg CaCO3 m(-2) yr(-1)). Most significantly the production rates on Acropora-dominated reefs, the corals most severely impacted in 1998, averaged +8.4 G by 2015, comparable with estimates under pre-human (Holocene) disturbance conditions. These positive budgets are reflected in high reef growth rates (4.2 mm yr(-1)) on Acropora-dominated reefs, demonstrating that carbonate budgets on these remote reefs have recovered rapidly from major climate-driven disturbances. Critically, these reefs retain the capacity to grow at rates exceeding measured regional mid-late Holocene and 20th century sea-level rise, and close to IPCC sea-level rise projections through to 2100.

Concepts: Coral, Coral reef, Scleractinia, Cnidaria, Maldives, Coral reefs, Coastal and oceanic landforms


Malaria is one of the most important tropical diseases that has caused devastation throughout the history of mankind. Malaria eradication programmes in the past have had many positive effects but failed to wipe out malaria from most tropical countries, including Sri Lanka. Encouraged by the impressive levels of reduction in malaria case numbers during the past decade, Sri Lanka has launched a programme to eliminate malaria by year 2014. This article reviews the historical milestones associated with the malaria eradication programme that failed subsequently and the events that led to the launch of the ongoing malaria elimination plans at national-level and its strategies that are operational across the entire country. The existing gaps in knowledge are also discussed together with the priority areas for research to fill in these gaps that are posing as challenges to the envisaged goal of wiping out malaria from this island nation.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Malaria, Sri Lanka, Past, History, Maldives, Tropical disease, Country


The Maldives are an 850 km-long string of atolls located centrally in the northern Indian Ocean basin. Because of this geographic situation, the present-day Maldivian population has potential for uncovering genetic signatures of historic migration events in the region. We therefore studied autosomal DNA-, mitochondrial DNA-, and Y-chromosomal DNA markers in a representative sample of 141 unrelated Maldivians, with 119 from six major settlements. We found a total of 63 different mtDNA haplotypes that could be allocated to 29 mtDNA haplogroups, mostly within the M, R, and U clades. We found 66 different Y-STR haplotypes in 10 Y-chromosome haplogroups, predominantly H1, J2, L, R1a1a, and R2. Parental admixture analysis for mtDNA- and Y-haplogroup data indicates a strong genetic link between the Maldive Islands and mainland South Asia, and excludes significant gene flow from Southeast Asia. Paternal admixture from West Asia is detected, but cannot be distinguished from admixture from South Asia. Maternal admixture from West Asia is excluded. Within the Maldives, we find a subtle genetic substructure in all marker systems that is not directly related to geographic distance or linguistic dialect. We found reduced Y-STR diversity and reduced male-mediated gene flow between atolls, suggesting independent male founder effects for each atoll. Detected reduced female-mediated gene flow between atolls confirms a Maldives-specific history of matrilocality. In conclusion, our new genetic data agree with the commonly reported Maldivian ancestry in South Asia, but furthermore suggest multiple, independent immigration events and asymmetrical migration of females and males across the archipelago. Am J Phys Anthropol 000:000-000, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: DNA, India, Indian subcontinent, Indian Ocean, Maldives, Chagos Archipelago, Atoll


Conservation efforts aimed at the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, remain limited by a lack of basic information on most aspects of its ecology, including global population structure, population sizes and movement patterns. Here we report on the movements of 47 Red Sea whale sharks fitted with three types of satellite transmitting tags from 2009-2011. Most of these sharks were tagged at a single aggregation site near Al-Lith, on the central coast of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Individuals encountered at this site were all juveniles based on size estimates ranging from 2.5-7 m total length with a sex ratio of approximately 1∶1. All other known aggregation sites for juvenile whale sharks are dominated by males. Results from tagging efforts showed that most individuals remained in the southern Red Sea and that some sharks returned to the same location in subsequent years. Diving data were recorded by 37 tags, revealing frequent deep dives to at least 500 m and as deep as 1360 m. The unique temperature-depth profiles of the Red Sea confirmed that several whale sharks moved out of the Red Sea while tagged. The wide-ranging horizontal movements of these individuals highlight the need for multinational, cooperative efforts to conserve R. typus populations in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean.

Concepts: Fish, Maldives, Shark, Megafauna, Red Sea, Basking shark, Whale shark