Country Profiles

Seychelles - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Seychelles is an archipelago consisting of 115 granite and coral islands that occupy a land area of 445 km2 in the South Western Indian Ocean. These islands of considerable ecological interest have been isolated from continental landmasses for some 65 million years. Endemism is high at 50-85% for different animal groups, in general, and at approximately 45% for plants. There is a correlation between the number of endemic plant species and the ages of the islands where they occur. Indeed, the very old granitic islands are estimated to have 80 species of endemic flowering plants out of some 900 in total, whereas some of the other coral islands have only 33 endemics out of 260 species.

An estimated 1,000 marine fish species occur with only 1-2% endemics, including the Seychelles clown fish and the bamboo shark. Seychelles has a unique blend of land birds from Africa, Asia and Madagascar, which have evolved into unique species and subspecies. There are 13 species and 17 subspecies of endemic birds. Surviving bird populations include 8 Globally Threatened Species, with some of the most endangered land birds in the world, including the Seychelles scops owl, the black paradise flycatcher and the magpie robin. The only indigenous land mammals are bats (5 species with 2 endemics), although various other land mammals have been introduced. There are also 21 species of marine mammals. The coco-de-mer palm (Lodoicea maldivica), endemic to the Seychelles and classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, is a national flagship species for tourism and conservation.

The Seychelles’s forest coverage is estimated to be about 90%. The total natural mangrove area continued to decline through much of the 20th Century but has been considered relatively stable since the 1980s at approximately 25 km2. Eight species of mangrove naturally occur in Seychelles. It is estimated that Seychelles has some 1,700 km2 of coral reef, the vast majority of which occurs around the southeastern islands.

Conservation areas cover 47% of the total surface area, comprising 19,760 ha of protected terrestrial areas and 23,000 ha of protected reef and marine areas. Aldabra, the largest raised atoll in the world and biodiversity treasure trove, was saved from major development in the late 1960s and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Various other islands hold biodiversity assemblages of great regional and global significance, including 10 Important Bird Areas (IBAs). The water courses (146 rivers and rivulets) on the three main islands are listed for protection in recognition of their importance to human populations and socioeconomic development.

Decline in biodiversity status in forest ecosystems has been significantly reduced in various habitat types with several habitats considered relatively stable, following successful rehabilitation projects. However, lowland wetlands continue a worrying negative trend and these habitats can be considered perhaps the most threatened terrestrial habitat type.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Some of the major threats to Seychelles’ biodiversity include: introduced species; habitat destruction/loss; anthropogenic activities (e.g. fishing, hunting, timber exploitation); pollution; siltation and disease. Indeed, the main threat to forest ecosystems today and the key challenge to their effective conservation and sustainable use are Invasive Alien Species (IAS). Forest fire and/or erosion are also a threat in some of the dryer forest habitat types, however largely because the disturbance caused generally facilitates the further incursion and establishment of invasive species over the regeneration of the native habitat. The main threat to mangroves is ongoing coastal development and also, in the longer term, climate change and rising sea levels must be considered a significant threat to mangrove forests in the Seychelles. Climate change is also inducing sea level rise in the low lying islands. Coral reefs remain an area of key concern with ongoing decline following the severe bleaching event of 1998 – however, in this case, global climate change is considered to be the primary underlying cause of declining coral cover.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Republic of Seychelles received a GEF enabling activities grant to develop its NBSAP in 1997. The NBSAP established 11 major goals (with related policy objectives) geared to bridge the gaps identified in the assessment: 1) Support general measures for conservation and sustainable use; 2) Strengthen identification and monitoring of biodiversity; 3) Increase in-situ conservation of biodiversity; 4) Promote ex-situ conservation; 5) Introduce ways and means for sustainable use of biodiversity; 6) Introduce incentive measures for biodiversity conservation; 7) Improve appropriate biodiversity-related research and training; 8) Augment public education and awareness of all facets of biodiversity; 9) Minimise adverse impacts on biodiversity; 10) Ensure access to and judicious control of genetic resources; and 11) Evaluate and use appropriate technology. The NBSAP then sets out 43 projects as identified by stakeholders during the consultation process which cascade logically from the 11 goals through the policy objectives.

The Government recognizes the importance of reviewing the NBSAP to incorporate current CBD goals and targets within a national context. Biodiversity projects are already mainstreamed through a landscape approach. Seychelles intends to harmonize existing legislations into a Biodiversity Act.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Approximately 47% of land is protected for environmental reasons in Seychelles. However, less than 0.1% of the marine environment is currently protected. Nevertheless, all marine mammals and marine turtles have had complete legal protection since 1979 and 1994, respectively, and there are management plans and management approaches for various fisheries. Seychelles was also amongst the first countries to develop and commence implementation of a National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.

Forestry policy has, in particular amongst sectoral approaches, seen a fundamental shift within the last 15 years, taking its emphasis from timber production to biodiversity conservation. The Agricultural Policy 2003-2013 also seeks to reduce environmental and biodiversity impact from its activities by lowering artificial chemical input, conserving soil and reducing water consumption by the application of biodiversity-friendly technologies. No national invasive alien species plans have been developed to date, however various site-based invasive alien species management plans are in place and under implementation. The Coco-de-Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) threat from international trade, due to the curio and supposed medicinal value of its nut in certain markets, has been addressed by a thorough census of productive trees, the legal requirement for the registration and certification of nuts for sale and export. A sustainable harvest and re-planting regime has also been developed and initiated.

An Access and Benefit Sharing Bill that seeks to protect Seychelles’ rights to its genetic diversity has been drafted and effort has been made to record and catalogue traditional knowledge, in particular with regard to the applications of medicinal plants.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The primary strategic mechanism for the integration of environmental concerns into socioeconomic sectors in Seychelles is the Environment Management Plan of Seychelles (EMPS). Biodiversity is also integrated into the development cycle by two primary legal mechanisms: the Town and Country Planning Act (TCPA) (1972), and the Environment Protection Act (EPA) (1994) with its Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (1996). The Acts working together provide the approval mechanism and conditions for developments through the Planning Authority.

Seychelles has programmed two major national initiatives aimed at increasing capacity to utilise the Ecosystem Approach to mainstream biodiversity, namely, the GEF full-size projects “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Management into Production Sector Activities” in 2008 and the “Strengthening Seychelles' Protected Area System through NGO Management Modalities” in 2011. These two projects directly address these concerns by seeking to integrate biodiversity across development sectors, and upgrading the protected area network and managing it in the context of the broader land and seascapes, respectively.

Seychelles is also Party to the Convention on Migratory Species, CITES, the Indian Ocean Southeast Asian Sea Turtle Agreement and the Migratory Sharks Memorandum of Understanding.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

In all aspects of biodiversity conservation, enhanced monitoring and assessment of key components of biodiversity is required to enable and facilitate effective management regimes.