Sunderbans Rates Faster than Jungle Mahal for Climate Change Mitigation

Gautam Kumar Das

Sunderbans and Jungle Mahal are remarkably important for mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon from the atmospheric carbon dioxide and store it in the subsoils in the form of blue carbon and green carbon respectively, though mangroves of the Sunderbans sequester carbon comparatively faster rate than the Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests of the Jungle Mahal. Mangroves of the Sunderbans can absorb up to four times more carbon dioxide by area than terrestrial natural forest patches of Jungle Mahal. For such excellent power of absorption, mangroves can fight superbly against the climate change like global events. Except combatting the effects of the climate change, the mangroves even act as a remedial measure for the man-made environmental degradation due to pollution. Very recently researchers claim that the plastics and microplastic particles are well baffled by mangroves and marshes and buried in the mangrove sediments thereon. Sediments admixture with such buried plastic particles have no harmful effects to the marine and estuarine biota of benthic habitats along with the other sediment dwelling faunal assemblage in the benthic food web. The mighty mangroves of the Sunderbans are trapping carbon and mitigate climate change, enhance fisheries, and protect the coastal areas. Mangroves vegetation serve as a natural coastal defense against the super cyclonic storms, tsunamis, sea level rise due to global warming and climate change. Overall, mangroves of the Sunderbans support resilient healthy environment, sustainable livelihoods, and security of foods. But regretfully, mangroves of the Sunderbans are disappearing in faster rate than the forests of the Jungle Mahal. Even in the recent scenario, green canopy of the Sunderbans comprising the districts of North and South 24 Parganas is decreased by 3.31 sq km in 2019 in comparison to 2017 as recorded in the India State of Forest Report 2019, though mangroves sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at a high rate and help to combat the process of climate change as a consequence.

On contrary, the forest floors of the Jungle Mahal (forest areas of Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur and Jhargram districts and part of Paschim Bardhaman and Birbhum districts form the Jungle Mahal region in the south-west part of West Bengal, though at present, it is a vague jurisdiction for managing administration and collection of revenue) have gradually been increasing, though the forest of the Jungle Mahal is comparatively slower in mitigating the climate change. The forest patches of the Jungle Mahal are characterized and dominated with the occurrences of Sal trees. Sal trees are deciduous in nature that shed leaves seasonally in the winter of every year. Trees with less numbers of leaves decelerate the rate of photosynthesis that causes low rate of absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon sequestered from the carbon dioxide by the tree lines of the forest stands of Jungle Mahal is accumulated as green carbon in the substrate soils. Not only the Jungle Mahal, but all such terrestrial forest patches lock carbon from the atmospheric carbon dioxide and store carbon as green carbon in the soils in depth of the forest floors.

Carbon accumulated in the mangrove swamps and marshes of the Sunderbans as blue carbon whereas, carbon stored in the Sal trees dominated forests of Jungle Mahal as green carbon. Carbon stored in the soil below the ground of the mangrove swamps and marshes in the estuarine and coastal areas and in the the oceans are termed as blue carbon i.e. the blue carbon is the fraction of carbon taken up and accumulated in the ocean and coastal ecosystems. That carbon is termed as blue because the colour of the oceans is blue. Green carbon is referred to the carbon stored in the green plants. Green plants absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis in the presence of green pigment chlorophyll which acts as a stimulator of the light phase of the photosynthesis. Thus, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is taken up by the green plants, photosynthesize, and turn into wood, which is gradually stored in the forest floors with time by means of litterfall and microbial biomass decomposition, and due to such storage of carbon in the green plants, carbon in the trees is said to be as green carbon. Anyway, forests either terrestrial or coastal are good natural carbon sinks and store carbon from decades to hundreds and thousands of years.

Formation of blue carbon from the mangrove swamp and marshes and stored in the soil in a regular process as the mangroves occurred in the river flood plains and coastal areas is inundated twice daily in the Sunderbans by the flood tidal water of semi-diurnal tidal pattern. Presence of tidal water enhance the rate of microbial biomass decomposition upon the litterfall and the formation of blue carbon thereon that increase the carbon stock in the subsoil of the mangrove forests of Sunderbans. Further, evergreen nature of the mangrove species absorbs carbon dioxide at the same rate on regular basis and helps mitigating effects and impact of the climate change faster than any other forest types like the Jungle Mahal. In comparison to the mangroves of the Sunderbans, forest floors of the Jungle Mahal is showered  only with the rain water precipitation during rainy season which enhance the microbial biomass decomposition and formation of green carbon that enrich the subsoils of the forests. Rate of photosynthesis in the vegetation of the forests of the Jungle Mahal results the slower rate of mitigation of the climate change than that of the mangrove forest of the Sunderbans. It might be stated that the accumulation of the blue carbon of the mangrove forest of the Sunderbans is effectively faster than that of the green carbon storage in the subsoils of the Sal forest of the Jungle Mahal.

Nov 21, 2020

 Gautam Kumar Das

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