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Socotra Archipelago

13th December, 2023 Geography

Socotra Archipelago

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  • Days into COP28 in Dubai, one little-known archipelago has come into sharp relief: Socotra.
  • Composed of four small Yemeni islands, Socotra has been in the sights of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ever since the civil war in Yemen erupted in September 2014.

What is an Archipelago?

  • An archipelago is an area that contains a chain or group of islands scattered in lakes, rivers, or the ocean.

Types of Archipelagos

Oceanic islands

  • Most archipelagos are formed when volcanoes erupt from the ocean floor, called oceanic islands.
  • For example, the Hawaiian archipelago islands were formed by a series of volcanic eruptions that began more than 80 million years ago and are still active today.

Coral cay archipelago

  • Archipelagos can also form due to erosion, sedimentary deposits, rising sea level, and other geographic processes.
  • The Florida Keys are an example of a coral cay archipelago, which forms when ocean currents transport sediments that gradually build up on the reef surface.

Continental fragments

  • Continental fragments are archipelagos that have separated from a continental land mass due to the Earth’s tectonic movements.
  • The Farallon Islands off the coast of California are an example of continental fragments.

Did you Know?

Archipelagos are sometimes defined by political boundaries.

The Gulf Archipelago off the Pacific Coast forms part of a larger archipelago that geologically includes Washington State’s San Juan Islands.

While the Gulf Archipelago and San Juan Islands are geologically related, they are not technically included in the same archipelago due to manmade geopolitical borders.

  • The largest archipelago in the world was formed by glacial retreat.
  • The Malay Archipelago, between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, contains more than 25,000 islands in Southeast Asia.
  • The thousands of islands of Indonesia and Malaysia are a part of the Malay Archipelago.
  • At least some of these islands—and the straits that separate them—were part of mainland Asia during the last ice age.

What is the difference between an archipelago and an island?

An island is a body of land surrounded by water. An archipelago is a grouping of islands that are close to each other.

About Socotra Archipelago

  • The Socotra Archipelago is located off the Horn of Africa, at the crossroads between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.
  • It is recognized as a regional centre of biodiversity, with spectacular endemic species such as the Dragon Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari).
  • Socotra has a rich cultural heritage, including the unique Soqotri language.
  • Known for its unique and abundant wildlife, Socotra was believed to be the original location of the Garden of Eden.
  • The archipelago is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site to protect what is considered one of the world’s most biodiverse and distinctive islands.
  • Naturalists and environmentalists estimate that 37 percent of 825 plant species, 90 percent of its reptiles, and 95 percent of its land snails exist nowhere else in the world.
  • The archipelago is increasingly in the UAE’s sights because of its strategic location between the navigable waterways of the Gulf, Africa and Asia.
  • It’s a potential linchpin for shipping, logistics and military defence or projection, and could allow the UAE to advance its geostrategic goals while countering those of competitors and adversaries.
  • The Emirates are also thought to be eyeing Socotra for its touristic development potential and this would represent a sure threat to the archipelago’s biodiversity.
  • Socotra has high importance for bird species as underlined by the identification by Birdlife International of 22 Important Bird Areas on Socotra.
  • Socotra also supports globally significant populations of other land and sea birds, including several threatened species.
  • The marine life of Socotra is also very diverse, with 253 species of reef-building corals, 730 species of coastal fish and 300 species of crab, lobster and shrimp.


With reference to Socotra Island, which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. It is the Island of Oman Situated in the Arabian Sea.
  2. It was designated as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

A) 1 only

B) 2 only

C) Both 1 and 2

D) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B