Recently a team of researchers from Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Management Plan Division, Bangladesh Forest Department, Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine of University of Glasgow and Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate United Kingdom published a scientific reports on Sundarbans in NATURE publishing group, a World leading journal on biological science.

The authors reported the habitat (favored living space) preferences of four major tree species of Sundarbans. The study shows that an increasing salinity-level adversely affected Sundri – the flagship tree species of the Sundarbans, whereas commercially less important species like goran (woody shrubs) and gewa (small tree species) are getting favored by the increasing salinity-level. High salt concentration generally reduces the leaf area expansion of plants, causing a stagnation in growth.

Salinity increase in mangroves has been widely reported, primarily due to the reduction of freshwater flow in the mangroves, heavy metal pollution and rising sea level. While reviewing literature, the study shows that freshwater flow has been consistently decreasing in the Sundarbans. Among many other factors, upstream dams (eg., Farakka) and illegal encroachment in rivers are contributing to the freshwater flow reduction. Moreover, if the speculation associated with Rampal power plant is true, that it will increase heavy metal pollution, the condition may further deteriorate.

An increasing atmospheric CO2 deposition, heavy metal pollution by unplanned industrial activities, and reduction in freshwater flow are serious concerns to our pride – The Sundarbans. We can do little to reduce atmospheric CO2 deposition and the relaxing of upstream dams, but we can certainly contribute through better planning of our industrial interventions and of protecting our river system.

Among many crucial elements, the study demonstrated the necessity of continuous monitoring. This is essential to strengthen our understanding of spatial variability on productivity (nutrient status) in the Sundarbans, and how that productivity status may vary due to climate change in the coming years.

Arun Bose is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the School of Forest Resources, University of Maine

Arun Boseis a researcher at the Swiss Federal Research Institute of ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

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