by Rahul J
With a coverage of almost 5000km², India is home to one of the most important ecosystems available – Mangroves. Present in tropical and subtropical areas, these are tree covers that grow along the coastlines in saline and brackish water. India is home to a significant number of them with their own unique characteristics and biodiversity.
Why are Mangroves Important?
Being the margin between the land and the sea in these areas, mangroves are considered to be really crucial bio-resources to these coasts, providing tremendous amounts of ecological value such as regulating water quality, shoreline stability, and serving as a physical protection against storms and cyclones. So by taking this role of being in the frontlines, they protect vulnerable coastal communities from sea-level rise caused by climate change and other weather events. Similar to rainforests, they trap a lot of carbon energy and play a vital role against climate change.
A Look at the Indian Mangrove Landscape
The first and the biggest example would be the Sundarbans mangrove region, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and house a Ramsar Wetland within. This forest is the home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, 180 species of trees, the Gangetic Dolphin and so much more. However, a huge chunk of this region has been converted to intensive agricultural lands and has been subject to intense human use – a common challenge that mangroves face, at least in India.
The second biggest Mangrove along the same Eastern Coastline would be the Godavari Mangrove Forest, covering an estimated 332km².Despite being the area’s biggest protection against natural calamities, and trapping carbon – these mangroves are being cut back in exchange for firewood and coastal development and for a commercial aquaculture. Inland pollution, sewage and plastic waste is also a threat to this mangrove. Similar to the Sundarbans, this forest also houses an endangered feline – being the Fishing Cat which is seriously threatened by wetland destruction and human-animal conflict, and is possibly extinct in Kerala.
Challenges Faced By Mangrove Regions
Despite being a very resilient ecological region and showing extreme adaptational skills, mangroves are being burdened by many issues. The biggest of them being sea-level rise which directly affects the temperature and growth of these regions. E.g., Sea level rise is said to be the biggest factor in mangrove area loss in the Sundarbans, which has already lost 2km² of mangrove cover between 2017-19.
The second challenge faced, would be human interference for firewood, coal and other natural resources, which has a sharp detrimental impact on the wildlife of these regions as shown above.
Conservation and Conclusion
The successes that India has seen from attempts at Mangrove restoration should largely be attributed to the efforts of local communities, NGOs, and the local governments. A very good example would be the creation of a village level Forest Conservation Council responsible for the planting of 6000 saplings in the Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. The objective of any mangrove restoration project should be in the balanced use of coastal areas such as limits on harvesting and logging activities and holding a proper record of human involvement in these areas – both for human and ecological benefit.
Figure 4 – (Krishna Delta – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godavari%E2%80%93Krishna_mangroves#/media/File:Mangroves_W_IMG_6896.jpg)
- Facts relating to Climate Change, mangrove importance and ecological issues: