Mangroves and their importance in maintaining coastal ecology 

Mains Marks Booster     5th August 2023        


  • Mangroves are tropical plants that can withstand tidal inundation, salt water, and loose, damp soil. Climate, salt water, tidal fluctuation, and soil type all seem to have a significant role in the dispersal of mangroves. There are more than 50 different species throughout the globe.
  • Ecological adaptations: Mangroves have evolved to withstand harsh estuarine environments. Their capacity to endure brackish waters and flooded, anoxic (lack of oxygen) soil are two of their main adaptations. 

Mangroves in India

  • India covers 3% of South Asia's mangroves, accounting for 6.8% of the world's total. The country's mangrove cover has increased by 54 sq km, reaching 4,975 sq km or 0.15% of its total area.
  • The Sundarbans in West Bengal make up over half of India's mangrove territory. Gujarat experienced the greatest growth in mangrove forest cover, with West Bengal, Gujarat, A&N Islands, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra also experiencing mangrove forest growth. 

Importance of mangroves in coastal areas

  • Mangroves play a crucial role in the ecosystems along the coast where they are found. They protect shorelines from harmful winds, waves, and floods and act as a physical barrier between populations in the marine and terrestrial realms.
  • Biodiversity: Additionally, mangrove forests provide as a habitat and haven for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, insects, mammals, and plants.
  • Many recreational and commercial fish species, including redfish, snook, and tarpons, spawn and grow up in the spawning and nursery grounds of estuarine ecosystems with coastal mangrove shorelines and tree roots.
  • Livelihood: Mangroves offer livelihood opportunities for coastal communities through fisheries and ecotourism, ensuring food security.
  • Water: Mangroves are crucial to preserving the purity of the water. They filter and trap sediments, heavy metals, and other contaminants via their extensive root system and the flora around them.
  • This capacity to hold back sediments moving from upstream avoids the contaminating of streams downstream and safeguards delicate ecosystems below, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Massive volumes of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases are captured by mangrove forests, which trap and store them for millennia in their carbon-rich waterlogged soils. As we deal with climate change, this is an essential ecological service.
  • Coastal defense: For coastal communities, mangroves serve as the first line of defence. They safeguard coastal areas from increasing storm surge, floods, and storms and stabilize shorelines by reducing erosion. 


  • Coastal Developments: Large tracts of mangrove forests were cleared to make way for coastal development before the importance of mangroves was appreciated. Living in coastal locations requires some land clearing, but there must be a careful balance between sustainable development and harming the local ecosystem.
  • Shrimp aquaculture: Mangrove habitats unfortunately support thriving shrimp farms. Mangrove trees have been cut down as a result so shrimp ponds may be built.
  • The IUCN reports that this sector has caused several nations, including Vietnam, to lose half of their original mangrove forests in recent years.
  • Charcoal farming: Mangroves produce high-quality charcoal because of the density of their wood. Local inhabitants have used mangrove wood as a source of cooking fuel in many locations where mangroves are common.
  • Natural Disaster: Natural disasters pose one of the biggest hazards to mangroves. Mangrove habitats are vulnerable to storms like hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural calamities.


Initiatives for the Protection of Mangroves

  • Mangrove conservation and maintenance under the National Scheme began in 1987. Since 1987, the Forest Survey of India has been measuring the amount of mangroves.
  • Mangroves and coral reefs are acknowledged as significant coastal environmental resources in the National Environment Policy of 2006, which also highlights the necessity of implementing an all-encompassing strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management.
  • Mangroves for the Future (MFF), an initiative of the IUCN, has included India since 2006.
  • A "National Institute for Research in Mangroves and Coastal Bioresources" was also established in West Bengal, close to the Sunderbans.
  • The government implements promotional and regulatory measures to protect, conserve, and augment forests through a central sector scheme under the National Coastal Mission Programme on Mangroves and Coral Reefs.
  • Further, Coastal Regulation Zone Notification implements regulatory measures under various Acts, including Environment, Wild Life, Forest, and Biological Diversity.
  • The government of India has launched the Mangrove Initiative for Shoreline Habitats and Tangible Incomes (MISHTI) in Budget 2023–24, drawing on India's success in afforestation. Under this mangrove plantations will be established under this strategy along the coast and on salt pans. 


  • Serious repercussions, such as a fall in biodiversity, extinction of species, genetic erosion, greater floods, and a drop in water quality, can result from mangrove degradation.
  • The government has made an effort to adopt certain programs to save these significant ecosystems, but the absence of appropriate management practices has prevented the sustainability of these resources from being accomplished.
  • To preserve the biggest mangrove ecosystem in the world for both current and future generations, a sustainable management plan should be created with input from all beneficiaries and stakeholders.