India: The health of mangrove forests will now be tracked using real-time satellite images in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Mangrove cell of the state has approved a proposal from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology in Valiamala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and commissioned the research project to them to monitor the health of mangrove forests using remote sensing data. On a monthly basis, satellite images will be sent to the forest department to check area-wise increase, destruction cases and areas where restoration has to be done.
Maps that will be created will focus on mangrove density, fragmentation, diversity, vegetation indices, erosion or accretion status, drainage density, sedimentation and blockages along river or estuary courses.
For the first time any state in India has allocated its resources to survey mangrove cover. “Many of the mangrove patches in the state, especially denser areas are inaccessible by foot or boats. We can see the edge of the creek but owing to degradation and siltation, it is difficult to enter these areas,” said N Vasudevan, additional principal chief conservator of forest, state mangrove cell. “We need an eye in the sky or more advanced technology to monitor the mangrove cover. This will help us to deploy manpower and resources from our space organizations and mangrove cell optimally.”
According to a Forest Survey of India report, Maharashtra has 222 sq km mangrove cover, which is 4.7% of the country’s total mangrove cover (4,740 sq km). Of these, 143 sq km is open mangroves and 79 sq km dense mangroves. The report also said that in 2015, there was a 36 sq km increase in cover in Maharashtra, which was the highest recorded by any state in the country. Also, the cover has increased from 140 sq km in 1987 to 222 sq km in 2015.
Canopy density, species distribution, hydrological network (surface water bodies such as estuaries, ponds, lakes, lagoons, rivers, streams etc.), and coastal geomorphology (tidal flats, mudflats, sand beaches, marsh land etc.), will all be identified through remote sensing data now.