What is Mangroves Forest in India?
Mangrove trees and shrubs are unique trees and shrubs that grow in saltwater and low-oxygen environments. A variety of species and aquatic creatures rely on these woodlands for survival.
Mangroves Forest in India represents a littoral forest ecosystem generally consisting of evergreen forests that grow in low-lying areas of tropical and subtropical regions. They grow below the high water level of spring tides and are highly productive.
Facts About Mangroves Forest
Mangroves in India vary in height from 8 to 20 m. They protect the shoreline from the adverse effect of cyclones and tsunamis.
- They require high solar radiation that helps to filter saline water through their roots. This explains why mangroves are confined to only tropical and subtropical coastal waters.
- Mangroves Forest in India is salt-tolerant, so they are also called halophytes. Leaves are thick and also contain salt-secreting glands.
- Since mangroves grow between the land and sea, they represent the best example of ecotone and are a breeding ground for many commercially important fishes.
- Mangroves Forest in India contains a salt filtration system to deal with saltwater immersion and wave action.
- Mangroves in India possess pneumatophores (blind roots) to overcome the respiration problem in anaerobic soil
- Mangroves show a Viviparity mode of reproduction which means that seeds germinate in the tree itself before falling to the ground. This is an important adaptive mechanism to overcome the problem of germination in saline water.
- Mangroves Forest in India occur in a variety of configurations. Some species, such as Rhizophora, send arching prop roots down into the water. While others send vertical "Pneumatophores" or air roots up from the mud. Adventitious roots which emerge from the main trunk of the tree above ground level are called stilt roots.
Types of Mangroves in India
The types of Mangroves are as follows
- Red mangroves: They grow along coastlines and are the hardiest among the three major mangrove plant types.
- Black mangroves: They are named so because they consist of dark bark. They usually grow at higher elevations than red mangroves. They have access to more oxygen as their roots are more exposed.
- White mangroves: They grow at higher elevations than the red and black mangroves. Generally, they do not have aerial roots. But sometimes, there is unique growth of peg roots when oxygen is depleted due to flood.
Mangroves Forest in India
Mangroves Forest in India occupies approx. 2 lakh square kilometres across the globe in tropical regions of almost 30 countries. India has a total mangrove cover of around 4,482 sq km which is just 3 % of the world's mangrove area.
- The mangroves of Sundarbans are the largest single-block tidal halophytic mangroves in the world. It is famous for the Royal Bengal Tiger and crocodiles. Here Mangrove areas are being cleared for agricultural use.
- The mangrove forest of Bhitarkanika, which is located in Orissa, is the second largest in the Indian sub-continent and harbours a high concentration of typical mangrove species. Mangrove swamps occur in intertidal mudflats on both sides of the Godavari-Krishna deltaic regions of Andhra Pradesh.
- Mangrove forests of Pichavaram and Vedaranyam are now degraded mainly due to the construction of aquaculture ponds and salt pans.
- On the western coast of India, mangroves forest is mostly scrubby and degraded and are found along the intertidal region of estuaries and creeks in Maharashtra, Goa, and Karnataka.
- The mangrove forest vegetation in the coastal region of Kerala is very sparse and thin.
- In Gujarat, mangroves are found mainly in the Gulf of Kutch and the Kori creek.
- In size, they range from bushy stands of dwarf mangroves found in the Gulf of Kutch to taller stands found in the Sunderbans.
- In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, there are small tidal estuaries and lagoons which support dense and diverse mangrove forests.
Importance of Mangroves Forest in India
Mangroves Forest in India creates unique environments which provide ecological niches for a large variety of organisms.
- Mangroves Forest in India have special roots such as prop roots and pneumatophores, which help them to impede water flow and thereby enhance the deposition of sediment in areas. They stabilize the coastal shores and provide a breeding ground for fish.
- Mangroves forest moderate monsoonal floods and reduce inundation of coastal lowlands.
- Mangroves Forest in India protect coastal areas from tsunami, hurricanes, and floods.
- Mangroves forest enhance the natural recycling of nutrients.
- Mangrove supports numerous florae, avifauna, and wildlife.
- Mangroves Forest in India provides us with wood, firewood, medicinal plants, and edible plants from local people.
- Mangroves in India provide various employment opportunities to local communities and augment their livelihood.
- Recent studies show that mangroves store more carbon dioxide than most other forests.
Threats to Mangroves Forest in India
Mangroves in India are facing various threats such as
- Mangroves Forest in India facing severe threats due to urbanization, industrialization, discharge of domestic sewage, industrial effluents, and pesticides.
- Saltpans and aquaculture also pose a threat to Mangroves Forest in India.
- Nearly 40% of mangrove forests on the Western Coast of India have been converted into farmlands and housing colonies in the last three decades.
- According to research conducted by the Indian Institute of Science, "India has lost 40% of its mangrove area in the last century mainly due to agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, urban development, and overexploitation".
Conservation of Mangroves Forest in India
The government of India and the world have taken various initiatives to conserve the Mangroves Forest in India.
- In 1976 amendment to the Indian Constitution which add Fundamental Duties, which was one duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers, and wildlife.
- Government of India set up the National Mangrove Committee to advise about mangrove conservation and development.
- The National Forest Policy, 1988 lists effective conservation and management of natural forest ecosystems which include the Mangroves Forest in India as a priority area for forestry research.
- The Indian Forest Act of 1927 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 protect flora and fauna. Although they do not specifically mention mangroves but can also apply to the conservation of flora and fauna of Mangroves Forest in India.
- Many Mangroves sites in India are protected under the Ramsar Convention at the global level, including India.
Mangroves topic finds its mentions in the GS Paper-1 and GS Paper-3 of the UPSC Syllabus. Candidates preparing for the upcoming IAS Exam must have in-depth knowledge about this topic. So that they will be able to answer the questions asked about this particular topic. The Mangroves UPSC notes would be beneficial during the preparation, and candidates can also refer to other books and materials for additional help.