WIO – Core Biodiversity Region

Two publications from this project, focused on corals, are now available at the following links, or click on the thumbnails to download them directly.

Obura DO (2012) The Diversity and Biogeography of Western Indian Ocean Reef-Building  Corals. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45013. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0045013

Download from: PLOS ONE, or HERE

For press links, see the following:

Primary Press release (Conservation International and CORDIO) “Diversity Abounds: Study Suggests the Western Indian Ocean is Home to Second Most Diverse Coral Reefs in the World”

And the following: Nairobi Convention, Mongabay, Yale Environment e360,CBS, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, >Today Show, Phys.Org, Ocean Revolution Moçambique, Constantine Alexander, Discovery News, Mother Nature Network


Obura DO (2012) Evolutionary mechanisms and diversity in a western Indian Ocean center of diversity. Proc 12th Int Coral Reef Symp. Available: http:// www.reefbase.org/resource_center/publication/icrs.aspx?icrs = ICRS12.

Download from Reefbase, ICRS12 Theme 3, or click on the figure …

Keynote presentation at the 7th WIOMSA Scientific Symposium in Mombasa, 24-29 October 2011. Click on the image to download the presentation (12 MB).


The biogeography of shallow marine organisms in the western Indian Ocean (WIO) is poorly known, though there are indications of a peak of biodiversity (species and genus distributions) in the region at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel encompassed by northern Madagascar, northern Mozambique and southern Tanzania. This region is fed by the South Equatorial Current passing close to the northern tip of Madagascar, with some indications of the formation of a gyre around the Comoro Islands and the formation of large eddies that subsequently move southwards in the Mozambique Channel. The region also has the most intricate coastlines of the WIO.

This study will investigate the oceanography of the region to determine if diversity-promoting processes are active, document levels of diversity as given by species distributions of reef building corals and reef fish, and estimate ecosystem resilience of coral reefs of the region. A historical biogeographic analysis will be done to determine how past tectonic events and sea level changes may have influenced extant biodiversity. Analyzed together, these data sets will shed light on whether this region does function as a high-diversity hotspot in the western Indian Ocean, analogous to the ‘Coral Triangle’ center of diversity for the Asia-Pacific region. The answers to this will have relevance to regional conservation planning as has been carried out in the East Africa and Western Indian Ocean marine ecoregions, and to long term vulnerability of the region and any peripheral regions dependent on it as a larval source, to climate change.

Download the project description here

The project will establish whether there is basic evidence to support the existence of a WIO biodiversity core region to serve as a foundation for a) a large scale collaborative research programme investigating the physical and biological factors that relate to it and b) regional planning for resource management and conservation based on connectivity and spatial resilience concepts. This study examines a first subset of the key research hypotheses, and forms the initial phase of a larger scale research programme to extend over multiple grants and partners.

Specific objectives for this first project address the evolutionary hypotheses, processes and evidence for a biodiversity hotspot:

  1. To determine the basic oceanography of the study region and in particular the presence and dynamics of a ‘Comoros gyre’;
  2. To determine the biogeography of representative taxa in the region and in relation to peripheral regions;
  3. To assess the resilience and current ecological state of coral reefs in the region;
  4. To assess the possible influence of historical tectonic and sea level changes on the oceanography and evolutionary history behind current biogeographic patterns;
  5. To assess current status and resilience of reefs in relation to oceanography, biogeography and human impacts to lay a platform for an integrated science and management agenda for the study region.