Ecology | VOL. 11, ISSUE 64, January-February 2011

Mangroves as Bio shield

Six years ago the islands of Andaman and Nicobar and a large part of the coastline in India were engulfed in a single stroke. The tsunami, caused havoc in all the countries situated around the epicentre, including India. Thousands of habitations were ripped apart, over two hundred thousand people lost their lives and countless were left homeless. However, on closer inspection it was revealed that the humble jungle of mangroves could have saved hundreds of lives. Traditionally various types of mangrove forests have dominated the Indian coastline. Mangroves are a floral species which effectively reduce the impact of tidal waves and at the same time enhance the natural ecosystem of an area, helping in carbon fixation and providing a safe nursery - essential for robust coastal food webs. However, increasing industrial, agricultural and fishing activities have resulted in a steep decline of these highly sensitive coastal ecosystems. In 2004, unfortunately for numerous unguarded villages these degraded coastal mangroves could not provide an effective barrier against the surging waves. On the other hand, there are cases where pockets of healthy mangrove forests did help protect. A case in point are three villages in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu, that survived the tsunami with minimal damage guarded behind the vegetation. [caption id="attachment_3678" align="aligncenter" width="1450"] Image: Mangrove restoration carried out in Tamil Nadu. Pic 1: Canal digging; Pic...

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