INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE CONSERVATION OF THE MANGROVE ECOSYSTEM 2023
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- International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem is observed on July 26, 2023
- Initiated by the United Nations and adopted by UNESCO in 2015.
- Aims to raise awareness about the importance of mangroves in safeguarding the ecosystem.
- Highlights the urgent need for conservation efforts to protect these critical coastal ecosystems
What is a mangrove?
- A mangrove is a small tree or shrub that grows along coastlines, taking root in salty sediments, often underwater.
- The word ‘mangrove’ may refer to the habitat as a whole or to the trees and shrubs in the mangrove swamp.
- Mangroves are flowering trees, belonging to the families Rhizophoraceae, Acanthaceae, Lythraceae, Combretaceae, and Arecaceae.
Why mangroves matter?
- The upper trunk, including the branches and leaves, of a mangrove tree lives completely above the waterline, while the lower trunk and the large root system are partly covered by seawater.
- Many species have roots diverging from stems and branches and penetrating the soil some distance away from the main stem (like banyan trees).
What are some of the special features of mangroves?
- Saline environment: A speciality of mangroves is that they can survive under extreme hostile environment such as high salt and low oxygen conditions. Mangrove trees contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system that filter out 90% of the salt when come into contact with saline and brackish water.
- Low oxygen: In a mangrove environment, the oxygen in soil is limited or nil. Hence the mangrove root system absorbs oxygen from the atmosphere. Mangroves have special roots for this purpose called breathing roots or pneumatophores. These roots have numerous pores through which oxygen enters the underground tissues.
- Mangroves, like desert plants, store fresh water in thick succulent leaves. A waxy coating on the leaves seals in water and minimises evaporation.
- Viviparous – their seeds germinate while still attached to the parent tree. Once germinated, the seedling grows into a propagule. The mature propagule then drops into the water and gets transported to a different spot, eventually taking root in a solid ground.
Importance of Mangroves
- Coastal Protection
- Mangroves act as natural barriers, reducing erosion caused by storm surges, waves, and tides.
- Stabilize coastlines, protecting coastal communities and infrastructure from the impacts of extreme weather events.
- Biodiversity Hotspots
- Mangroves support a diverse array of flora and fauna, including various fish, birds, and invertebrates.
- Provide vital nursery habitats for commercial fish and shellfish species, contributing to marine biodiversity.
- Water Quality Improvement
- Mangroves filter pollutants and excess nutrients from stormwater runoff, improving water quality in coastal areas.
- Protect seagrass habitats and coral reefs from nutrient pollution, preserving delicate marine ecosystems.
- Carbon Sequestration
- Mangroves are highly efficient carbon sinks, sequestering large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Play a significant role in climate change mitigation, helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Sustainable Livelihoods
- Coastal communities depend on mangroves for their livelihoods, relying on fisheries and resources such as fuel and medicine.
- Mangroves support ecotourism and recreational activities, contributing to local economies.
Importance of Mangroves and Climate Impact
- Mangroves cover just 0.1% of the Earth's surface but can store up to 10 times more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests.
- These plantations act as natural barriers against storm surges, protecting coastal communities and preventing property damage.
- Mangrove ecosystems help reduce flood risks for approximately 15 million people annually, amounting to over $65 billion in property damage prevention.
Status of Mangroves in India
- As per the 2021 Forest Survey Report (FSR), India's total mangrove cover is 4,992 square kilometers.
- Over the last century, the country lost 40% of its mangrove cover, with Kerala witnessing a significant decline of 95% in the past three decades.
- Reasons for decline include habitat conversion for agriculture, aquaculture, tourism, and urban development.
- Several states in India have taken up mangrove restoration projects, with Odisha, Maharashtra, and Karnataka leading in terms of mangrove cover.
- Community-based efforts in Gujarat have successfully achieved plantation and preservation of mangroves over 5,000 hectares of land.
Threats to Mangroves
- Coastal Development
- Urbanization and infrastructure development lead to the conversion of mangrove areas into built-up coastal areas.
- Results in the loss of natural habitats and disruption of ecosystem functions.
- Industrial and agricultural pollution, as well as waste discharges, degrade water quality and harm mangrove ecosystems.
- Toxic substances negatively impact flora and fauna, compromising biodiversity.
- Climate Change
- Rising sea levels and extreme weather events pose significant threats to mangroves, especially in low-lying coastal regions.
- Ocean acidification affects mangrove health and the species they support.
- Unsustainable Exploitation
- Overharvesting of mangroves for timber, fuelwood, and other resources leads to habitat degradation.
- Unsustainable aquaculture and shrimp farming contribute to mangrove deforestation.
- International Collaboration
- Global initiatives and alliances aim to protect and restore mangroves, involving governments, NGOs, and local communities.
- The Global Mangrove Alliance works towards expanding mangrove habitat worldwide.
- National Conservation Programs
- Many countries have implemented national conservation programs to safeguard mangroves and promote sustainable management.
- These programs focus on awareness, restoration, and community involvement.
- Integrated Coastal Zone Management
- Coastal zone management plans include mangrove conservation and restoration as essential components.
- Ecosystem-based approaches ensure the protection of mangroves and other coastal habitats.
- Climate Change Adaptation
- Incorporating mangroves in climate change adaptation strategies to enhance coastal resilience.
- Recognition of mangroves' role in reducing the impacts of extreme weather events.
- MISHTI: Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes
- Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the "Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes" (MISHTI) during the budget speech on February 1, 2023.
- The initiative aims to promote mangrove plantations along the Indian coastline and on saltpan lands to combat the climate crisis.
- India joined the Mangrove Alliance for Climate during the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Egypt in November 2022.
- The MISHTI initiative has the potential to improve livelihoods through plantation engagement, tourism initiatives, and enhanced catch of commercial marine resources.
- However, budgetary allocation details for the scheme were not mentioned during the budget speech.
Preserving mangroves is vital for biodiversity, climate change mitigation, and sustaining livelihoods for coastal communities. International cooperation, effective conservation programs, and sustainable practices are essential to protect and restore these valuable coastal ecosystems for the well-being of present and future generations.
Q. Which of the following statements about mangroves is/are correct? Choose the correct option:
1.Mangroves cover a significant portion of the Earth's surface and store more carbon per hectare than terrestrial forests.
2.Mangroves are flowering trees.
3.The "Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats & Tangible Incomes" (MISHTI) was launched during the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
A.Only statement 1 is correct.
B.Only statement 2 is correct.
C.Only statement 3 is correct.
D.Both statements 1 and 3 are correct.