Coastline losses in the Sundarbans reaches 200 meters per year
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Coastal development and climate change are eating away at the Sundarbans, the largest block of mangroves in the world, stretched along the coast of India and Bangladesh. In some areas, up to 200 meters of coast are disappearing annually, according to a report from the Zoological Society of London.
The losses are affecting the area’s natural protection from tidal waves and cyclones This will inevitably lead to species loss in this richly biodiverse part of the world, the scientists said.
“Our results indicate a rapidly retreating coastline that cannot be accounted for by the regular dynamics of the Sundarbans. Degradation is happening fast, weakening this natural shield for India and Bangladesh,” said ZSL’s Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, senior author of the paper.
The name ‘Sundarban’ can be literally translated as ‘beautiful forest’ in the Bengali language. The area is is the largest block of continuous mangrove forest in the world, being home to almost 500 species of reptile, fish, bird and mammals, including the endangered Bengal tiger.
“The Sundarbans is a critical tiger habitat; one of only a handful of remaining forests big enough to hold several hundred tigers. To lose the Sundarbans would be to move a step closer to the extinction of these majestic animals,” said Sarah Christie, ZSL’s tiger conservation expert.
Although mangroves are rare, they are an important barrier against climate change, providing protection to coastal areas from tsunamis and cyclones. They are also the most carbon rich forests in the tropics with high carbon sequestration potential, meaning their degradation and loss substantially reduce our ability to mitigate, and adapt to, predicted changes in climatic conditions.
Mangroves comprise less than 1 per cent of all forest areas across the world, amounting to roughly half the size of the UK. It is essential that the protection of mangroves becomes a priority, particularly for the charismatic species which will disappear with them if no action is taken to preserve their habitat.
“Mangrove protection is urgent given the continuing threats to the world’s remaining 14 to 15 million hectares of mangroves from aquaculture, land development and over-exploitation,” said mangrove expert Jurgenne Primavera. “The recently established IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group, hosted by ZSL, will develop a global conservation strategy for mangroves based on an assessment of research and conservation needs.”