We investigate the dynamics of short linear chains consisting of
two-level systems (atoms) coupled by the electromagnetic field. The environment of photon modes acts as a source of noise and leads to the disappearance of the initially present multipartite entanglement. The rate of this process (entanglement degradation) depends on the separation of the atoms, and also on the initial state. By the aid of the appropriate entanglement witnesses we show that this rate is exceptionally low for the so-called subradiant states. Below one resonant wavelength of atomic separation the effect of the environmental noise is weaker than the dipole-dipole interaction and multipartite entanglement can be formed in the initial stage of the time evolution.