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Aldabra’s research station gears up for Golden Jubilee celebrations |22 June 2021

Aldabra’s research station gears up for Golden Jubilee celebrations

The Aldabra research station 50th anniversary logo and the Aldabra research station logo

For over 50 years, the Aldabra atoll has provided an outstanding natural laboratory for scientific research and discovery, containing one of the most important natural habitats for studying evolutionary and ecological processes.

Since the late 1960s, the atoll was under the spotlight of the international conservation community, when the British and United States governments considered developing the world’s largest raised atoll as a military base.

Several scientists from the Royal Society, supported by other scientific bodies such as the Smithsonian Institution, mounted a protest, gaining public support against the development known as the ‘Aldabra Affair’.

Eventually, the Society was able to buy the lease to the island, and a research station was completed in 1971.

In 1979, responsibility for the protection of the atoll was passed to a public trust, namely the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), which continues to manage the atoll to date.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the research station, which will be on June 30, the SIF, along with its partners, are organising a series of activities which will run until early November.

As one of the world's longest running tropical research stations, the milestone of 50 years of operation and the production of not only internationally significant science but also delivery of key projects and research, is something Seychelles should be proud of.

To mark this moment and start of the next 50 years, SIF is making sure to reach out to those in Seychelles and abroad.

The activities will include the unveiling of Aldabra research station 50th anniversary logo and the Aldabra research station logo which has been developed by AP Designs in affiliation with Créatifs.

The logo depicts the Aldabra Atoll, interpreted in a simplified and modern way.

The 'dot' denotes the position of the research station on Picard Island and from left to right, the gradual thickening of the vertical lines creates a ripple effect emanating from the station. This indicates growth, progress, advancement and evolution, the impact of the research station being felt as waves in Seychelles and beyond.

Other activities include the opening of the application window of the David Stoddart scholarship at the University of Seychelles and plans to further formalise relationship, the creation of a new Aldabra research station grant for young people, the launch of social media contest with Raffles Seychelles, the highlighting on the creation of an online donation platform, Webinar series with Aldabra science coordinators, Aldabra island managers, Seychelles scientists and past Royal Society members, and also Seychelles and UK Aldabra research symposiums for end of year.

Described by Unesco as a prime example of an oceanic island ecosystem, Aldabra is one of the last remaining such places on our planet, a refuge of stability in a volatile world. It is so isolated and so inhospitable to humans, one photographer called it “the island that wants to kill you”.

The atoll itself consists of four main islands, namely Picard, Polymnie, Malabar and Grande Terre.

The property is an outstanding example of an oceanic island ecosystem in which evolutionary processes are active within a rich biota.

Most of the land surface comprises ancient coral reef (~125,000 years old) which has been repeatedly raised above sea level.

The atoll's isolation has also allowed the evolution of endemic flora and fauna. Due to minimal human interference, these ecological processes can be clearly observed in their full complexity.

Aldabra is a site of global scientific interest but its remote location makes operational management a major logistical challenge.

In the past the use of diesel generators for electricity resulted in high fuel and transport costs, and was environmentally unsustainable.

In 2008, SIF started to investigate ways to increase energy efficiency, and develop a renewable energy system – aiming both to reduce operational costs and their environmental impact. Following an audit of energy usage on Aldabra, renewable energy options and their applicability were assessed, alongside research into energy efficient measures. Reductions in the energy demand were essential for the successful implementation of a renewable energy system.

The findings of this research were implemented when a 25 kWp hybrid photovoltaic-diesel energy system was installed in 2012.

In the first year of operation, 94% (38,171 kWh) of the station’s electricity demand was generated by the new solar power system.

This contributed to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions (a total of 97,523 kg of CO2 per year were avoided, of which 59% resulted from investments into energy efficiency measures and 41% was contributed by the PV system) and subsequently the research station’s carbon footprint was largely reduced.

It is interesting to note that the energy efficiency measures that were undertaken significantly reduced the electricity needs of the station.

After reliance on a fossil fuel based energy system for many years, this project has revolutionised the operation and sustainability of the research station on Aldabra. Since implementation of the photovoltaic system, diesel demand has decreased by 97% which will lead to a projected saving of €68,000, resulting in a system payback time of only three years.

This project has shown that investments into both energy efficiency and renewable energies are essential for an environmentally and financially sustainable system.

The reductions in costs and logistical preparation brought about by this project will ensure that SIF can achieve its management and research objectives for many years to come.


Roland Duval

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