Mangroves in Sunderbans losing capacity to soak up CO2: Research
As per a latest research financed by the Union government and headed by noted marine scientist Abhijit Mitra, the Sunderban’s huge mangrove forest is rapidly losing its capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases, from the atmosphere due to increase in the salinity of water, unchecked deforestation and pollution.
As per the study, the mangrove forest, marsh grass, phytoplanktons, molluscus and other coastal vegetation in the largest delta on earth are the natural absorbers of carbon dioxide (CO2). The locked carbon in the plants is known as “Blue Carbons”. The absorption of CO2 is a process which plays a role in reduction of the warming of the earth and other bad effects of climate change.
The study titled “Blue Carbon Estimation in Coastal Zone of Eastern India – Sunderbans” was submitted to the government in 2013. The researchers who conducted the study expressed concerns, especially towards the central Sunderbans, one of the three zones into which the forest was divided for the study, the other two being western and eastern.
The situation, especially in the central part, is quite alarming. The capacity of the mangrove forest, especially the Byne species, to absorb carbon dioxide has declined significantly. This will affect the whole ecosystem of the area.
The study was focused mainly on the Byne species of mangrove. There are 34 other species of mangroves found in the forest including Keora and Genwa. The situation is worrying because less absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere meant higher proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere which traps heat.
The main causes of such an alarming situation in the Sunderbans, a UNESCO world heritage site, are increased salinity in water and human activities like shrimp farming, kiln industries and deforestation.
- Sharp increase in the salinity of water in Matla River: The mangroves thrive on fresh water, but due to lack of fresh water the height of mangroves has reduced significantly, bringing down its capacity to absorb carbons. Due to deposition of silt at the confluence of the Vidyadhari and Matla rivers, fresh water is unable to enter the Matla river resulting into rise in its salinity.
- Human incursion in these areas for activities like shrimp farming, setting up of brick kiln industry and deforestation has added to the problem.