(Last Updated on : 09/07/2014)
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest is located at a distance of about 200 kilometres towards the south of Chennai
along the southeast coast of India and is considered as the second largest mangrove
forest of the world. It is quite developed and comprises a number of rare species which thrive in its peculiar topography and geographical conditions. It grows between two major estuaries namely Coleroon estuary in the south and Vellar estuary in the north. The forest spreads over the higher land of Vellar-Coleroon estuarine complex spanning over an area of 1100 hectares and represents a heterogeneous mixture of mangrove components. The eco-region receives fresh water from both the estuaries while it gets sea water from the Bay of Bengal
. Pichavaram Mangrove Forest covers around 51 small and large islands having size ranging from 10 metres to 2 kilometres.
Geography of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
The soil of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest usually constitutes alluvium
which has been derived from the mangrove plants. Waterways cover about 40 percent of the total area whereas the 50 percent is covered by forest. The rest constitute salty soil, sandy soil and mud flats. Several canals, gullies and creeks traverse the mangroves which discharge freshwater into the eco-region. Agricultural waste water from the upper regions is discharged to the forest through a major irrigation channel.
History of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest did not gain much prominence during the pre independence era. In 1882, a map of the region was published by Cuddalore district
authorities which reached the public subsequently. The place was explored during the later part of the 20th Century by Thirumalairaj and Venkatesan is credited for listing the floral communities of the region in association with the environmental factors.
French institute in Puducherry
has also played a crucial role in exploring Pichavaram Mangrove Forest and has several publications which narrate the natural wealth of these mangroves. The Centre of Advanced Study in Marine Biology has also been involved in the research of these forests. Mangrove Genetic Resource Conservation Centre has been established here by M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation during the 90s encompassing 50 hectare forest area.
Flora of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Flora of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest includes 35 species belonging to 16 genera and 13 families. Among all about 33 species can be spotted along the east coast. The eco-region is known to be one of the rare mangrove forests of the country as it hosts 14 exclusive mangrove species. About 30 percent of the flora is formed by Avicennia marina
which is followed by Bruguiera cylindrica
(17 percent) and Avicennia officianalis
(16 percent) of total population. Population density is however low and many plants are facing the threat of extinction.
Fauna of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest
Pichavaram Mangrove Forest shelters about 100 species of diatoms, 200 species of fishes, 30 species of molluscs, 30 species of crabs
, 30 species of prawns, 30 species of copepods, 40 species of tintinnids and 20 species of dinoflagellates. A number of rare and economically significant shell and fin fishes are the inhabitants of Pichavaram Mangrove Forest. A variety of magnificent avian population also flock around Pichavaram Mangrove Forest which include both native as well as migratory ones. Prominent birds found here include Pelicans, Spoonbills, Herons, Storks
, Egrets, Cormorants, Watersnips and others. Around 177 species of birds dwell in these mangroves which belong to 15 orders and 41 families. The period between November and January witness the maximum population of winged members. Local migrants from breeding grounds of India and others from distant countries arrive in the ecosystem in large number during this period. Varied habitat types are found here including mud flats, gullies, creeks, channels, sand flats and nearby sea shore. This variety serves as ideal habitat for a vast species of fauna.