The islands in Sundarbans are of great economic importance as a storm barrier, shore stabilizer, nutrient and sediment trap, a source of timber and natural resources, and support a wide variety of aquatic, benthic and terrestrial organisms. It support livelihoods of the localities.
Fishing and timber are among the major provisioning services in the Sundarbans. Wax and honey (by Apis dorsata bees), raw material for paper industry are also collected from the forest. Annual harvest of honey and wax are 185,000 kg and 44,400kg, respectively. The Sundarbans is an important source of fuel wood for the locals as well as the distant market. Ceriops decandra, Cynometra ramiflora, Amoora cuculatta, and Hibiscus tiliaceus which thrive under story of of the forest, are used as fuelwood. Fuelwood are also collected from the branches and twigs of taller trees as Heritiera fomes, Avicennia officinalis, Sonneratia apetala and barks of Excoecaria agallocha. C. decandra, are more abundant in the western part, are high in calorific value; its barks are reach in tannin which is locally extracted to dye fishnets.
Leaves of Nypha fruticans are extensively used in thatching roofs of local households. Timber from Phoenix paludosa is used to build house posts, jetties and rafts.
Unlike many of the mangroves of the world, The Sundarbans is rich in floral and faunal biodiversity. The forest has about 70 plant species, 55% of which are true mangroves.
Coastal protection and habitat function are the major ecosystem services emphasizing on the need for its sustainable management. A natural belt, Sundarbans is often the first to face and minimize the rigorous winds and waves during cyclones saving both life, properties and its biodiversity. Nutrient, pollutant and sediment regulation of the mangroves is worth studying which offer benefit of millions of dollars if not billions.
Tourism is one of the rising economic activities in the area in recent years which is a major threat as well. Considering declining and threatened mangroves around the world, Sundarbans holds huge potential for scientific community and hence the global community.
de Lacerda, L. D. (2002). Mangrove ecosystems: function and management. Springer Science & Business Media.