The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are two chains of islands belonging to India. Located north of Sumatra, the 530 islands divide the Bay of Bengal from the Andaman Sea. Only 38 of the islands are inhabited, but the population is growing rapidly, from 279,000 in 1991 to a projected 405,000 in 2001. Most of the islands are forested, mountainous, and have extensive fringing reefs.
The biological importance of the islands is still being researched. Recent surveys have identified 219 coral species, 120 species of algae, 70 species of sponges, 571 species of reef fish, and 8 species of shark. The islands also contain dugong, dolphin, and turtle habitats. The Nicobars contain some of the best nesting sites for leatherback turtles in the Indian Ocean.
Both chains of islands have remained relatively pristine, although development is encroaching on some areas with negative effects. On some islands, deforestation has significantly increased sediment outflows on nearshore reefs, turbid freshwater discharge seems to have spurred algal growth, and industrial pollutants may be affecting the area around Port Blair. The islands also support active fisheries. Lack of comprehensive surveys of the islands makes assessment of threats and conditions difficult.
The 1997-98 ENSO event had less impact on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands than had been originally thought. Initially, 80 percent of corals were believed to be dead. However, recent surveys in five sites indicate an average of 56 percent live coral cover, 20 percent dead coral cover, and 11 percent coral rubble.
The RRSEA analysis identifies overfishing, which may affect 55 percent of reefs, to be the only major threat to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The threats from sedimentation and inland pollution are underestimated in the analysis owing to small watershed size and limited landcover data.
The islands are covered by a network of more than 100 marine protected areas. Many of these MPAs include entire islands and extend into intertidal waters, but most do not include coral reef areas. In addition, management of the protected areas is weak and monitoring of condition is inconsistent.
1. A. Rajasuriya and A. White. “Status of Coral Reefs in South Asia,” in Wilkinson, Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 1998, pp. 49, 98.
2. Rajasuriya and White. “Status of Coral Reefs in South Asia,” pp. 49, 100.
3. A. Rajasuriya et al., “Status of Coral Reefs in South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka,” in Wilkinson, Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2000, p. 104.
4. Rajasuriya et al., “Status of Coral Reefs in South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka,” p. 100.
5. Rajasuriya et al., “Status of Coral Reefs in South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka,” p. 107.