Research Team at Khambat, Gujarat, India © GEER, 2007
This Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation project set out to assess the floristic diversity, species richness and recruitment rates of mangrove forests in coastal South Gujarat. It also aimed to examine forest substrata to identify the conditions most favoured by mangroves for their natural regeneration, and to assess local people’s dependence on mangroves through a social survey.
Gujarat’s 1,650-km coastline boasts the largest area of mangroves on India’s western coast (936 km², or 22% of the country’s total mangrove area). Yet the status of mangrove habitats in southern Gujarat has never been comprehensively surveyed. Though the region’s mangroves are some of the most fragmented in India, they are also thought to have the highest potential for successful reforestation.
For these reasons, GEER, with support from MFF, undertook a study with three teams working on: 1. A physical survey and mapping of mangroves; 2. A survey of floristic diversity; and 3. A socio-economic survey using a rigorous sampling and research design.
Policy makers and local communities.
The project covered areas that had never been surveyed before, producing important new findings for long-term mangrove conservation and management.
Two species were returned to Gujarat’s existing species list and need to be included in state plantation plans. To this end, the project worked to raise awareness among forest officers, leading to a decision by the Gujarat Forest Department to launch planting and reintroduction programmes with the rediscovered species.
New areas for mangrove regeneration were identified in Navsari and Valsad districts, and the project submitted proposals to the state government urging it to declare the Purna estuary a mangrove biodiversity hot spot. In a continuation of the project, the GEER Foundation is now involved in creating a GIS database and a herbarium.
The challenge now lies in working with the Gujarat state government to ensure designation of the Purna estuary as a mangrove biodiversity hotspot.
The project documented the socio-economic dependence of local communities on mangrove forests, and presented its findings to the State-Level Steering Committee for the Conservation of Mangroves and Coral in May 2009. The project also produced a documentary film, The Lesser Known Mangrove Habitats of South Gujarat, launched on World Environment Day in 2009 by the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Both men and women were included in the project’s socio-economic survey of local mangrove-dependent communities.
By giving authorities the data they need to establish new mangrove plantations, the project has helped to increase coastal resilience to the more frequent extreme weather events predicted under climate change.
The importance of involving local people in survey work became rapidly apparent – fishers assisted researchers by showing them the locations of key mangrove species.
South Gujarat, India
30th Dec 2008 to 31st Oct 2009
C. N. Pandey
Gujarat Ecological Education and
Research (GEER) Foundation,
Indroda Nature Park, PO Sector 7,
Gandhinagar 382 007, Gujarat, India