Scientists from 13 research institutions across the country are studying the carbon sequestration potential of mangroves, under plans to use the species to build resilience to climate change in the coastal regions and islands in India.
The scientists drawn from nine CSIR institutes, IIT, Kharagpur, University of Calcutta, Fishery Survey of India and Space Applications Centre are part of a multidisciplinary project named Vulnerability Assessment and Development of Adaptation Strategies for Climate Change Impact with special reference to the coastal and island ecosystem of India (VACCIN). One of the objectives of the project is to create a databank on carbon sequestration by 21 dominant mangrove species in India. Mangroves have proved to be nature’s defence against the tsunami that struck South India in 2004, says J. Sundaresan, nodal officer, VACCIN. “By sequestering atmospheric carbon, they have the potential to act as carbon sinks. Evaluating this ecosystem service will help to prevent mangrove deforestation and reduce the effects of climate change,” he says.
The project is expected to help the country meet its climate change commitments by including the carbon sequestered by mangroves in the national inventory of greenhouse gases. It would also help the implement carbon credit programmes and provide an incentive for protection and sustainable use of mangrove forests.
VACCIN involves a pioneering attempt to study the carbon sequestration of the coastal environment. It will provide an advantageous position to the carbon trading and carbon management strategy of Indian industry, says the project review document.
According to a manual published as part of the project, mangrove destruction can release large quantities of stored carbon and exacerbate global warming trends, while mangrove rehabilitation will increase sequestering of carbon.
The unique mangrove ecosystem protects the coastal landmass from storm surges, tropical cyclone, high winds, tidal bores, seawater seepage and intrusion. It also acts as a flood control barrier and binder of sediments, helping to combat climate change- induced sea level rise that poses a threat to islands and coastal regions.
Of the 4,445 sq km of mangrove forests in India, West Bengal has the largest area of 2,118 sq km, followed by Gujarat 936 sq km and Andaman and Nicobar with 637 sq km. Kerala has just eight sq km of mangroves.