A mangrove is a shrub or small tree that grows in coastal saline or brackish water. Mangroves occur worldwide in the tropics and subtropics, mainly between latitudes 25° N and 25° S - spanning 118 countries and territories.
These plants are capable of surviving in saline conditions (halophytes) with tidal water flows and muddy soil that is deficient in oxygen.
They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with salt water immersion and wave action.
Mangrove represent the littoral forest ecosystem, containing trees that are generally 8-20 meters high and have thick leaves.
The seeds of Mangrove Forests trees germinate in the trees itself before falling - this is called Viviparity mode of reproduction.
The major mangroves in India are found at - Sundarban, Mahanadi, Krishna Godavari, Gujarat, Ratnagiri, Goa, Cauvery and Andaman Nicobar.
India has about 4,921 square kilometres (0.15%) of mangrove forests, this is over 3 per cent of the world total. West Bengal has highest of India's mangrove cover, followed by Gujarat and A&N Islands.
The largest mangrove forest in India is the Sundarbans in the Gangetic Delta, stretches across India and Bangladesh.
Sundarbans of West Bengal is a biosphere reserve and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. it is the largest mangrove forest in the world.
Sundarbans houses the largest number of Royal Bengal tigers in the world. It also houses over 250 species of birds, 120 species of fishes, reptiles like the salt water crocodiles, etc.
Bhitarkanika is an important Ramsar Wetland site. More than 220 species of birds have been recorded from this area. It is also the largest known nesting site for the Olive Ridley sea turtles.
ImportanceMangroves are structurally complex with diversified habitat, they create unique environments that serve as niches for a large variety of organisms.
These forests serve as nurseries for a variety of commercially important marine organisms like fishes and crustaceans.
NASA has termed them the best carbon scrubbers because of their role as a significant carbon sink, they store more carbon dioxide than most of the other forest types.
The Sundarbans serve as a flood barrier, absorbing massive amounts of energy from the waves.