(Last Updated on : 14/04/2014)
Indian tidal or mangrove forests are mainly situated on the Gangetic Delta and in Coastal Plains
in West Bengal
, called the Sunderban
, which in Bengali, literally translates to Beautiful Forest. The Sunderban have recently been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List and been named as Sundarban National Park. The Indian tidal or mangrove forests are generally submerged, particularly on river deltas on the east coast and they are considered as the largest mangrove forest in the world. The mangrove forests are one of the most productive and bio-diverse wetlands on earth and they grow in the inter-tidal areas and estuary openings between land and sea. The mangrove forests provide critical habitat for a diverse marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. The healthy mangrove forests are considered as key to a healthy marine ecology.
The Indian tidal or mangrove forests are most luxuriant around the mouths of large rivers and in sheltered bays and are found mainly in areas, where annual rainfall is fairly high. The plants in these forests include trees, shrubs, ferns and palms and these plants are mainly found in the tropics and sub-tropics on riverbanks and along coastlines. The plants are unusually adapted to anaerobic conditions of both salt and fresh water environments. All these plants have nicely adapted to the muddy, shifting, saline conditions and they mainly produce stilt roots that project above the mud and water in order to absorb oxygen. The mangrove plants also form communities that help them to stabilise banks and coastlines and also to provide natural habitat to many types of animals.
Mangrove Forests of Sunderban
The Indian tidal or mangrove forests fix more carbon dioxide per unit area than phytoplankton in tropical oceans. The main part of the Indian tidal or mangrove forests, the Sunderban, is intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. It presents an excellent example of ongoing ecological processes and is world famous for its wide range of fauna. The most renowned amongst the wildlife present in the Sunderban, is the Royal Bengal Tiger
. Other notable animals that take shelter in this Indian tidal or mangrove forest are Grey Mongoose
, Fishing Cat, Pangolin
, Fox, Flying Fox, Wild Boar
, Jungle Cat, Macaque
etc. There are also many other species of Birds, Spotted Deer
, Crocodiles and Snakes found in the Sunderban. The Mangrove Forests of Sunderbans offer ideal habitat to a range of marine and aquatic life such as shrimps, small fishes and a range of crabs
like hermit and fiddler and other forms of crustaceans which feed and reside in the twisted accumulation of roots, called Pneumatophores.
The ecosystem of the Indian tidal or mangrove forests is a complex one. The Sunderbans comprises one of the three largest single tracts of mangrove forests of the world. For its extraordinarily diverse wildlife, the Sunderbans contrasts the other large mangrove forests in terms of biodiversity. It is for this reason; the forest has been designated as a UNESCO's World Network of International Biosphere Reserves, since 2001. It has also been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, since 1997. The forest also has immense protective and productive functions. The two most important commercial mangrove species found in Sunderbans, are Sundari (Heritiera fomes) and Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha). Other than these, Poresia coaractata, Imperata cylindrica, Palms, Myriostachya Eightiana, Nypa Fruticans, Keora and Phragmites Karka are widely available.
The Indian tidal or mangrove forests are indeed an integral part of the entire ecosystem in India.