Who wants a damp damp place for home? Specially when that goes under water twice a day, never completely dries out leaving only muddy, uneven surfaces to step on? Doesn’t sound encouraging, right? Well, many actually a lot of species just call that home because it provides them shelter – exactly the criteria one seek in “home”!
Mangroves is one of the most unique habitat ecosystem where a rich biodiversity of mangrove flora and fauna have thrived under environmental conditions considered challenging for most life forms on the planet and hence, unique indeed!
Mangroves are mainly the vegetation that occurs in inter-tidal zone – between land and sea – life determining factors like temperature, sediments, tidal currents are highly variable. Life as we know is uncertain here, since the prerequisite to any living form, i.e. oxygen, is limited. These tidal swamps are under water twice a day. Life would be next to impossible…if life had not adapted to the conditions. Substrata like aerial roots of mangroves take hold on the dumpy soil to support life; while mangrove fauna find shelter within these tangled roots and build up a mutual interaction which forms the fundamental of the mangrove biogeochemical cycle.
Sundarban is a unique habitat for its rich biodiversity; above the water, mangrove canopy is home to birds, mammals, reptiles while below the water, bivalves, sponges, algae overgrow its roots. In fact, Sundarbans the world’s only mangrove with tiger. The Royal Bengal Tiger have adapted to an almost amphibious life, being capable of swimming for long distances and feeding on fish, crab and water monitor lizards.
Mangroves themselves are inhabited from both inside and outsides, whereas spaces between mangrove roots are home to prawns, crabs, fishes. Plankton, microbenthos and invertebrates of Sundarbans are at the primary trophic level. Very few studies have attempted to understand their dynamics which is undoubtedly crucial to understand the nutrient fluxes and dynamics of the forest.
Considering its high food abundance yet low predation pressure, many species spend a part or all of their life cycles. Imagine, if mangroves disappeared, fingerlings that grow in its shelter will easily fall pray to predators instead of growing and reach maturity. Thus mangroves act as nursery habitats for commercial fisheries for FREE and support offshore fisheries. 1
- Nagelkerken, I. et al. The habitat function of mangroves for terrestrial and marine fauna: A review. Aquat. Bot. 89, 155–185 (2008).