The Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is located in the central-western part of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. It supports one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and acts as a stepping stone for the transport of planktonic larvae of reef organisms from the western and eastern Indian Ocean.
The main habitats found in the reserve are coral reefs, islands, seagrass beds, and mangroves. Coral reefs are the most important habitat type in terms of area as well as biodiversity. Maldivian coral reefs are home to the richest diversity in the region and are the seventh-largest in the world, accounting for 5% of the world’s reef area.
The coral reefs support a high diversity of reef animals, including approximately 250 species of corals (stony and soft corals) and 1,200 reef and reef-associated fish species, a population of marine turtles, manta rays (Manta birostris), whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and seabirds. These also include threatened and endangered species such as the green turtle (Chelonia mydas), hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Napoleon wrasses (Cheilinus undulatus), and tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus).
About Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Baa Atoll lies to the northwest of Male’, and has a total area of approximately 1,200 km2. The atoll is comprised of seventy-five islands; thirteen of these are inhabited with a combined population of approximately 11,000 people. Six islands have been developed as resorts; the remaining 57 islands are uninhabited.