Mangrove Forests: Presence and Significance
- Mangrove forests comprise the interface between wetlands and sea grass meadows along a vast expanse of tropical shorelines all over the world.
- They also occur along bays, estuaries or mouths of rivers by these shores.
- Mangroves are present worldwide on various shorelines between approximately 25°N and 25°S latitude.
- Mangrove forests are one of the greatest sources of biodiversity on this planet.
- They have a rich underwater component, a surface component and an aerial component.
- Mangrove communities include fish, insects, shellfish, birds of many species, saltwater crocodiles, monkeys, algae and fungi.
- Many organisms, especially fish, spend their early years in the protection of the mangroves and their intricate below and above-ground root systems.
How are Mangrove Forests Useful?
- Mangroves, along with sea grasses and wetlands, comprise the ‘blue carbon’ ecosystem of stored carbon in sediments along many tropical and subtropical coastal zones.
- Their complex aerial and submerged root systems moderate current flows and the canopies moderate wind flow — they are the interface between the wetlands and sea grass communities for the continental flow of water and solutes into the ecosystem.
- Mangroves also supply fuelwood and other forest products, like food and medicine, for people.
- And, in addition to the nutrition they give us, mangroves protect us — along with other trees and forests, mangroves sequester a sizeable amount of carbon to offset greenhouse gas emissions created by human activities.
- When mangrove trees die of natural causes, they generally fall into the sea and the carbon may be stored in the sediment on the sea floor for long periods of time.
Types of Mangrove Trees
- The term ‘mangrove’ is used to refer to a whole community of trees and shrubs, which are not closely related.
- The Mangrove trees have all adapted to harsh coastal environments of saline, brackish waters and low oxygen conditions.
- There are over 100 species of trees and shrubs designated as mangroves.
- However, there are three classic groups of mangroves — the red mangroves (Rhizophoraceae), the black mangroves (Acanthaceae) and the white mangroves (Combretaceae).
Mangrove Forests in India
- The deltas of the Ganges, Mahanadi, Krishna, Godavari, and Kaveri rivers contain mangrove forests. Backwaters in Kerala have high density of mangrove forest on the shores.
- consist of 46 species (4 of which are natural hybrids) belonging to 22 genera and 14 families, representing about 57% of the world’s mangrove species.
- The Sundarbans is the largest mangrove region and the LARGEST single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the WORLD.
- The Sunderbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta extend from the Hooghly River in West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh, covering an area of about 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi). This area comprises closed and open mangrove forests, agriculturally used land, mudflats and barren land.
As per the ISFR (India State of Forest Report) 2019 the Mangrove cover in the country has increased by 54 sq km (1.10%) as compared to the previous assessment.
The mangroves do so much for the planet — but we are losing them very disturbingly and rapidly to oil spills, pollution and shoreline development.
-Source: Times of India