Context: Indian Sunderbans, which is part of the largest mangrove forest in the world, is home to 428 species of birds, a recent publication of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) States.
- The publication documents the avifauna of the Sundarbans.
- It also serves as a comprehensive photographic field guide, with detailed distribution and locality data for all the species from the region.
- India has over 1,300 species of birds and if 428 species of birds are from Sunderbans, it means that one in every three birds in the country is found in the unique ecosystem.
- The mudflats exposed in the low tides, rich in microorganism deposited during tidal activity are ideal feeding for migratory birds.
- These mudflats and wetlands of Sunderbans act as a stopover site for migratory flight south (south wards) and back.
- The Sundarbans comprises hundreds of islands and a network of rivers, tributaries and creeks in the delta of the Ganga and the Brahmaputra at the mouth of the Bay of Bengal in India and Bangladesh.
- The Indian Sundarbans covers 4,200 sq km.
- It comprises of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve of 2,585 sq km which is home to about 96 Royal Bengal Tigers (as per last census in 2020 )
- It is also a world heritage site and a Ramsar Site.
- Out of the 428 birds listed, some, like the Masked Finfoot and Buffy fish owl, are recorded only from the Sunderbans.
- The area is home to nine out of 12 species of kingfishers found in the country as well rare species such as the Goliath heron and Spoon-billed Sandpiper.
- The Indian Sunderbans are the most diverse of natural landscapes and accounts to 60 % of all mangrove forests in the country.
- Mangroves are trees and shrubs that have adapted to life in a saltwater environment.
- Mangroves are tropical trees that thrive in conditions most timber could never tolerate — salty, coastal waters, and the interminable ebb and flow of the tide.
- Respiratory or knee roots (pneumatophores) are characteristic of many species.
- They project above the mud and have small openings (lenticels) through which air enters, passing through the soft spongy tissue to the roots beneath the mud.
- Mangroves are extremely important to the coastal ecosystems they inhabit.
- Physically, they serve as a buffer between marine and terrestrial communities and protect shorelines from damaging winds, waves, and floods.
- Mangrove thickets improve water quality by filtering pollutants and trapping sediments from the land, and they reduce coastal erosion.
- Ecologically, they provide habitat for a diverse array of terrestrial organisms, and many species of coastal and offshore fish and shellfish rely exclusively on mangroves as their breeding, spawning, and hatching grounds.
- With the ability to store vast amounts of carbon, mangrove forests are key weapons in the fight against climate change, but they are under threat worldwide.