Bengali Forest Could Perish Along With Bengal Tiger Because Of Climate Change
January 11, 2013

Bengali Forest Could Perish Along With Bengal Tiger Because Of Climate Change

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A new report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) states that human development and global temperature rise is threatening one of the world´s most precious forest systems. The Bengali Forest is disappearing at a record pace and taking along with it, species that may be found nowhere else on Earth.

Rapid deterioration of the mangrove forests in the Sundarbans has resulted in as much as 650 feet of coast disappearing in a single year. The report, published in today´s issue of Remote Sensing, suggests that as human development continues to thrive, and as global temperatures continue to climb, the coastal forest habitat´s natural protection from tidal forces and cyclonic events is being shredded at alarming rates.

"Our results indicate a rapidly retreating coastline that cannot be accounted for by the regular dynamics of the Sundarbans. Degradation is happening fast, weakening this natural shield for India and Bangladesh," said Dr. Nathalie Pettorelli, a ZSL researcher and lead author of the report.

In the Bengali language, Sundarban is translated as ℠beautiful forest.´  And this beautiful forest, the largest block of mangrove forest in the world, is home to nearly 500 species of reptiles, birds, fish and mammals, including the endangered Bengal tiger.

"The Sundarbans is a critical tiger habitat; one of only a handful of remaining forests big enough to hold several hundred tigers. To lose the Sundarbans would be to move a step closer to the extinction of these majestic animals," said Sara Christie, a tiger conservation expert with the ZSL.

Mangroves are an important barrier against climate change, said the authors. These rare tree systems provide protection to coastal habitats from weathering effects of the seas. These carbon-rich forests of the tropics also have the potential for high carbon sequestration, meaning their degradation will substantially affect climatic outcomes, making it more difficult for humans, as well as animals and other plants, to exist in areas where mangroves once thrived.

Mangroves comprise of less than 1 percent of all forest cover around the globe, amounting to roughly half the size of the UK (or about the size of the US state of Illinois). Mangrove protection needs to be a priority, said the authors, especially for the species that will disappear if nothing is done to preserve the precious ecosystem.

"Mangrove protection is urgent given the continuing threats to the world's remaining 14 to 15 million hectares of mangroves from aquaculture, land development and over-exploitation,” said ZSL's Chief Mangrove Scientific Advisor Jurgenne Primavera.

“The recently established IUCN SSC Mangrove Specialist Group, hosted by ZSL, will develop a global conservation strategy for mangroves based on an assessment of research and conservation needs," added Primavera.