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The Coastline Soldiers

Let’s get to know together the godly botanical species

Author: Shristi (Young Reporter, India)

What do we think of the soldiers who are protecting the country? Well, we all have the same answer. Respect, love, care, and gratitude. These are the words that instantly come to our minds when we think of them. Are we really doing this practically? Obviously we are expressing our emotions for the human soldiers, but what about the plant soldiers? One of the most prominent names enrolled in the list of the botanical soldiers are Mangroves. A mangrove is a shrub or a group of small trees that grows along the coastal saline or brackish water. Like the soldiers, they are also tolerant to harsh coastal conditions. These are generally identified in the tropical and subtropical tidal areas . The most amazing fact about them is that they contain a complex salt-filtration and root system to cope with salt immersion and wave action. Mangroves can be found in over 100 countries and territories in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. There are around 70 known species of mangroves around the globe. The largest % of them are found between the 5°N and 5°S latitudes. It’s presence can be well marked in countries such as India, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Brazil, Australia and many other countries.

You may be wondering, What is the reason for nominating it as a soldier ? Here l will give you an answer. Being a part of the coastal ecosystem, the mangrove forests are indeed playing a crucial role and acting as a natural barrier against the tidal waves. These floral species effectively reduce the impact of the tidal waves and at the same time enhance the natural ecosystem of an area by helping in carbon fixation, providing shelter and as a food web for robust coastal regions. Studies reveal that wave attenuation or the mangrove acting as a bioshield generally occurs due to multiple interactions of waves with mangrove trunks and roots and also bottom friction .These are the two primary mechanisms. A group of researchers performed laboratory experiments on the effectiveness of the mangrove’s wave attenuation capacity. They selected Rhizophora species as the representative of the mangrove. Two models were prepared, one of which contained the parameterized stiff structure of the mangrove along with the land-like structures and water source, and the other contained every other detail except the mangrove barrier. Artificial waves ranging from 1 to 2 meter wide were generated. It was observed that the models which contained the mangrove barrier suffered much less damage than the other model. Mangrove forest has proved its efficiency not only in the laboratories but also by saving many places around the world from the huge attack of nature. Mangroves also have a well marked wind resistibility which has aided in reducing damage in many areas during cyclones . There are many more advantages that we are continuously being provided by the mangrove . Mangrove ecosystems have several faunal species as they create characteristic and productive habitats for them. Mangrove blue carbon storage and sequestration capability are important regulatory services , since 2011 because of global climate change mitigation. They also provide a slew of cultural services such as tourism and cultural heritage. It is not only encoraging people to think more but also providing economic benefits. You might be curious about some evidence! If we focus only on India, we can see many Nature lovers and tourists are frequently choosing to visit the “Sunderbans”, to observe the beauty of it’s flora and fauna . An increasing demand for tourism in the Sunderbans is opening up more scope for the local people for their earnings. Tribal communities prevailing in the region who are not economically strong are improving their livelihood through fishing, honey collection, tourist guides and many other ways. The government is also collecting revenue for the betterment of the place. They are hiring local people in the wildlife protection department so that local people can earn as well as become more responsible for the protection of the wildlife. People are becoming aware about the importance for the preservation of the precious heritage such as “The Royal Bengal Tiger” which is facing threat because of poachers. We can mark these advantages not only in India but Worldwide. This is how the mangrove forest has enhanced tourism as well as heritage. So why should we not call them soldiers?

Ok, let me ask the question again. Are we really treating the plant soldiers well? Obviously, we are not. The harsh reality is that we are back stabbing them. Human beings are always looking forward to modernization, the results of which include coastal development. This is the primary threat for them. Structures such as hotels, desalination plants, coal-fired power stations with their associated issues of altered hydrology, erosion and pollution. Rivers are blocked or re-routed before they meet the mangroves. There are many more “Favours” we are doing for them. Oh ! Yes! You read it right, these are the “Favours” that humanity is providing for them.

Despite all of this, we can still feel some rays of hope . Governments are trying their level best to reduce the threats towards the mangroves. They are focusing on the plantation of mangrove seedlings, protection of the coastal regions and many more efforts. Many environmentalists are working for its safety. It always gives us an immense pleasure when we see the green soldiers shining brightly with their heads held high. I hope we all will realise the importance of them and put our hands together for securing their future as well as our own glorious future.

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