Current Status of Mangrove Forests in the Trans-boundary Sundarbans

  • R. N. MandalEmail author
  • Peter Saenger
  • Chandan Surabhi Das
  • Abdul Aziz
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 30)


Sundarbans is the largest single block of mangroves forest in the globe, stretching over both India and Bangladesh. The entire land mass is situated in the estuary of Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) river systems that carry the world’s largest sediment load to the Bay of Bengal. The present article reviews the environmental characteristics and biological diversities of the Sundarbans in general and the present status of mangroves in particular. Environmental factors such as hydrology, topography, texture of substrata, salinity and their interactions cause to develop a wide heterogeneity in the mangrove ecosystems that support to nurture a great biodiversity. Mangrove diversity comprises a total of 45 species and 21 species more considered as under-canopy vegetation. All these intertidal flora have made the Sundarbans a unique habitat in which a diverse range of biota, including flora, fauna and microorganisms have been part of this ecosystem that renders staggering services to coastal inhabitants, which have been enumerated. Thus, the values of mangroves are classified in view of a wide range of benefits harnessed out of ecosystem services. The spatio-temporal changes highlight the rate of degradation or loss of forests in last two decades. The tropic pathways of mangrove ecosystem exhibit how leaf litter enriches the productivity of the Sundarbans forests. In this perspective, the present article suggests that the joint efforts are required from both India and Bangladesh to protect and preserve such incredible natural resources.


Sundarbans Mangroves Diversity Environment Ecosystem Spatio-temporal changes  


  1. Ahmed A, Aziz A, Khan AZMNA et al (2011) Tree diversity as affected by salinity in the Sundarban mangrove forests, Bangladesh. Bangladesh J Bot 40:197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aubreville A (1964) Problems de la mangrove d’hier at d’anjourd-hui. Addisonia 4:19–23Google Scholar
  3. Aziz A, Paul AR (2015) Bangladesh Sundarbans: present status of the environment and biota. Diversity 7:242–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aziz A, Rahman M, Ahmed A (2012) Diversity, distribution and density of estuarine phytoplankton in the Sundarban mangrove forests. Bangladesh J Bot 41:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Banerjee A, Santra SC (1999) Plankton composition and population density of the Sundarbans mangrove estuary of West Bengal (India). In: Guha Bakshi DN, Sanyal P, Naskar KR (eds) Sundarbans Mangal. NayaProkash, Calcutta, pp 340–349Google Scholar
  6. Banerjee M, Sen PK (1987) Palaeobiology in understanding the change of sea level and coast line in Bengal basin during Holocene period. Indian J Earth Sci 14:307–320Google Scholar
  7. Banglapedia (2006) In: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  8. Blasco F (1975) The mangroves of India. Institut Français Pondichery Travaux Section, Scientifi que et Technologie 14:1–175Google Scholar
  9. Blasco F (1977) Outlines of ecology, botany and forestry of the mangals of the Indian subcontinent. In: Chapman VJ (ed) Wet coastal ecosystems, Ecosystems of the world, 1. Elsevier Scientific Publishing, Amsterdam, pp 241–260Google Scholar
  10. Blasco F (1984) Taxonomic considerations of mangrove species. In: Snedaker SC, Snedaker JG (eds) The mangrove ecosystem: research methods. UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  11. Blasco F, Aizpuru F (2002) Mangroves along the coastal stretch of the Bay of Bengal: present status. Indian J Marine Sci 31:9–20Google Scholar
  12. Brown S, Lugo AE (1982) A comparison of structural and functional characteristics of saltwater and freshwater forested wetlands. In: Gopal B, Turner R, Wetzel R, Whigham D (eds) Wetlands ecology and management. Proceedings of the first international wetlands conference, New Delhi. National Institute of Ecology and International Scientific Publications, New Delhi, India, pp 109–130Google Scholar
  13. Chaffey DR, Miller FR., Sandom JH (1985) A Forest inventory of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh. Main Report. Overseas Development Administration, London, p 196Google Scholar
  14. Chakrabarti P (1995) Evolutionary history of the coastal quaternaries of the Bengal Plain, India. Proc Indian Natl Sci Acad 61A:343–354Google Scholar
  15. Chapman VJ (1976) Mangrove vegetation. J. Cramer, VaduzGoogle Scholar
  16. Chapman VJ (1977) Introduction. In: Chapman VJ (ed) Ecosystems of the world 1, wet coastal ecosystems. Elsevier Sci Publ Co, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  17. Chaudhuri AB (1965) Grasses and grassland types of West Bengal and some aspects of their ecology. Bull Bot Soc Bengal 19:94–108Google Scholar
  18. Chaudhuri AB, Choudhury A (1994) Mangrove of the Sundarbans, Vol 1, India. The IUCN Wetlands programmeGoogle Scholar
  19. Christensen B (1984) Ecological aspects of the Sundarbans. FAO: TCP/BGD/2309 (Mf). FAO, Rome, p 42Google Scholar
  20. Clements FE (1928) Plant succession and indicators. H.W. Wilson Co., New YorkGoogle Scholar
  21. Clough BF (1982) Mangrove ecosystems in Australia: Structure, function and management. Australian National University Press, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  22. Cole CV, Vaidyaraman PP (1966) Salinity distribution and effect of freshwater flows in the Hooghly River. Proceedings tenth conference on coastal engineering. Tokyo (American Society of Civil Engineers, New York), pp 1312–1434Google Scholar
  23. Coleman JM (1969) Brahmaputra River: channel processes and sedimentation. Sediment Geol 3:129–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Curtis SJ (1933) Working plan for the forests of the Sundarbans division (April 1931 to March 1951). Bengal Government Press, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  25. Das CS, Bandyopadhyay S (2012) Sharing space – human animal conflicts in Indian Sundarban. Progressive Publishers, Kolkata, p 246Google Scholar
  26. Davis JH (1940) The ecology and geologic role of mangroves in Florida. Carnegie Institute, Washington. Publication 517:303–412Google Scholar
  27. Deb SC (1956) Paleoclimatology and geophysics of the Gangetic delta. Geogr Rev India 18:11–18Google Scholar
  28. Donato D, Kauffman JB, Murdiyarso D et al (2011) Mangroves among the most carbon-rich forests in the tropics. Nat Geosci 4:293–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ellison AM, Mukherjee BB, Karim A (2000) Testing patterns of zonation in mangroves: scale-dependence and environmental correlates in the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. J Ecol 88:813–824CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Encyclopaedia of Flora and Fauna of Bangladesh (2007) In: Ahmed UZ (ed) Angiosperm, vol II. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  31. Field CB, Osborn JG, Hoffman IJ et al (1998) Mangrove biodiversity and ecosystem function. Global Ecol Biogeogr Lett 7:3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ghosh A (2004) The hungry tide. Harper Collins Publisher Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  33. Giri C, Pengra B, Zhu Z et al (2007) Monitoring mangroves forest dynamics of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India using multi-temporal satellite data from 1973–2000. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 73:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goodbred SL Jr, Kuehl SA (2000) Enormous Ganges-Brahmaputra sediment discharge during strengthened early Holocene monsoon. Geology 28:1083–1086CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gopal B, Chauhan M (2006) Biodiversity and its conservation in the Sundarban Mangrove Ecosystem. Aquat Sci 69(3):338–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Gopal B, Junk WJ (2000) Biodiversity in wetlands: an introduction. In: Gopal B, Junk WJ, Davis JA (eds) Biodiversity in wetlands: assessment, function and conservation, vol 1. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, pp 1–10Google Scholar
  37. Gopal B, Junk WJ (2001) Assessment, determinants, function and conservation of biodiversity in wetlands: present status and future needs. In: Gopal B, Junk WJ, Davis JA (eds) Biodiversity in wetlands: assessment, function and conservation, vol 2. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, pp 277–302Google Scholar
  38. Hait AK, Das HK, Goshi S et al (1996) New dates of Pleisto-Holocene subcrop samples from South Bengal, India. Indian J Earth Sci 23:79–82Google Scholar
  39. Heumann BW (2011) Satellite remote sensing of mangrove forests: recent advances and future opportunities. Prog Phys Geogr 35(1):87–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hussain Z, Acharya G (eds) (1994) Mangroves of the Sundarbans, Volume 2: Bangladesh. World Conservation Union, Gland, p 257Google Scholar
  41. Iftekhar MS, Islam MR (2004) Degeneration of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangroves: a management issue. Int For Rev 6(2):123–134Google Scholar
  42. Iftekhar MS, Saenger P (2008) Vegetation dynamics in the Bangladesh Sundarbans mangroves: a review of forest inventories. Wetl Ecol Manag 16:291–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Islam AKM (1973) The algal flora of Sundarbans mangrove forest, Bangladesh. Bangladesh J Bot 2:411–436Google Scholar
  44. Islam MS, Wahab MA (2005) A review of the present status and management of mangrove wetland habitat resources in Bangladesh with emphasis on mangrove fisheries and aquaculture. Hydrobiologia 542:165–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ismail M (1990) Environment and ecology of the forested wetlands of the Sundarbans of Bangladesh. In: Lugo AE, Brinson M, Brown S (eds) Ecosystems of the world 15, Forested Wetlands. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 357–386Google Scholar
  46. IUCN (2014) The Sundarban Delta: a vision. IUCN, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  47. IUCN-BD (2002a) Molluskan biodiversity of Sundarban – final report. IUCN-Bangladesh, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  48. IUCN-BD (2002b) Draft report on the orchid and lichen of the Sundarbans. IUCN-Bangladesh, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  49. IUCN-BD (2002c) Draft interim report on ornithological study of Sundarban. IUCN-Bangladesh, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  50. Janssonius HH (1950) The vessels in the wood of Javan mangrove trees. Blumea 6:464–469Google Scholar
  51. Japan International Cooperation Agency (1976) Geology and stone material: Jamuna bridge construction project. Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency, p 54Google Scholar
  52. Jayappa KS, Mitra D, Mishra AK (2006) Coastal geomorphological and land-use and land cover study of Sagar Island, Bay of Bengal (India) using remotely sensed data. Int J Remote Sens 27(17):3671–3682CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. JOEC (2002) Oil spill impact on Sundarban mangrove forest. Japan Oil Engineering Company Ltd., TokyoGoogle Scholar
  54. Karim A (1994a) The physical environment. In: Hussain Z, Acharya G (eds) Mangroves of Sundarbans Bangladesh, vol 2. IUCN, Bangkok, pp 11–41Google Scholar
  55. Karim A (1994b) Vegetation. In: Hussain Z, Acharya G (eds) Mangroves of the Sundarbans, vol 2. World Conservation Union, Gland, Bangladesh, pp 43–74Google Scholar
  56. Khan HR (1983) Irrigation water requirements in Bangladesh. In: Zaman M, Biswas AK, Khan AH et al (eds) River Basin Development. Tycooly International Publishing Ltd., Dublin, pp 150–157Google Scholar
  57. Kuehl SA, Levy BM, Moore WS et al (1997) Subaqueous delta of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system. Mar Geol 144:81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lee SY (1998) Ecological role of grapsid crabs in mangrove ecosystem: a review. Mar Freshw Res 49:335–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. MacNae W (1968) A general account of the fauna and flora of mangrove swamps and forests in the Indo-west pacific region. Adv Mar Biol 6:73–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mandal RN, Naskar KR (1994) Studies on the periphytic algal on the aerial roots of the mangroves of Sundarbans in West Bengal. Recent researches in ecology. Environ Pollut 9:91–94Google Scholar
  61. Mandal RN, Naskar KR (2008) Diversity and classification of Indian mangroves – a review. Trop Ecol 49(2):131–146Google Scholar
  62. Mandal RN, Ghosh D, Ghosh AK et al (1995) On distributional record of SchyphiphorahydrophyllaceaGaertn. f. and Atalantiacorrea M. Roem from the intertidal mangrove forests of Indian Sundarbans. J Nat Bot Soc 49:71–74Google Scholar
  63. Mandal RN, Meher PK, Naskar KR (2009) Effect of salinity on germination and seedling development of Heritierafomes Buch. Ham Proc Natl Acad Sci(Bio. Sci.) 79:151–160Google Scholar
  64. Mandal RN, Das CS, Naskar KR (2010) Dwindling Indian Sundarban mangroves: the way out. Sci Cult 76(7–8):247–254Google Scholar
  65. Master Plan Organization (1987) Geology of Bangladesh: Chicago, Illinois. Harza Engineering Company International Technical Report 4, p 178Google Scholar
  66. McDowell MC (1995) The development of the river Hoogli for navigation Commemoration volume of Port Calcutta, p 69Google Scholar
  67. Mepham RH, Mepham JS (1984) The flora of tidal forests – a rationalization of the use of the term ‘mangrove’. S Afr J Bot 51:75–99Google Scholar
  68. Milliman JD, Meade RH (1983) World-wide delivery of river sediment to the oceans. J Geol 91:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Milliman JD, Rutkowski C, Meybeck M (1995) River discharge in the sea: a Global river index (GLORI). LOICZ Reports & Studies, No. 2. Texel, p 125Google Scholar
  70. Mitra A, Sengupta K, Banerjee K (2011) Standing biomass and carbon storage of above-ground structures in dominant mangrove trees in the Sundarbans. For Ecol Manag 261:1325–1335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Morgan JP, McIntire WG (1959) Quaternary geology of the Bengal basin, East Pakistan and Burma. Bull Geol Soc Am 70:319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Nagelkerken I, Blaber SJM, Bouillon S et al (2008) The habitat function of mangroves for terrestrial and marine fauna: a review. Aquat Bot 89:155–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Naskar KR (1994) The plant wealth of lower Ganges delta, Nayaprakash, Kolkata 6Google Scholar
  74. Naskar KR (2004) Manual of Indian mangroves. Daya Publishing House, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  75. Naskar KR, Guha Bakshi DN (1987) Mangrove swamps of the Sundarbans–an ecological perspective. Naya Prakash, CalcuttaGoogle Scholar
  76. Naskar KR, Mandal RN (1999) Ecology and biodiversity of Indian mangroves. Daya Publishing House, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  77. Odum WE, Heald EJ (1972) Trophic analysis of an estuarine mangrove community. Bull Mar Sci 22:671–738Google Scholar
  78. Odum WE, McIvor CC, Smith TJ (1982) The ecology of the mangroves of South Florida: a community profile. Fish and wildlife service/Office of biological services. Washington D.C. FWS/OBS81/24Google Scholar
  79. Pal AK, Purkayastha RP (1992) New parasitic fungi from Indian mangrove. J Mycopathol Res 30(2):173–176Google Scholar
  80. Pal UC, Naskar KR, Santra SC (1988) A check-list of algal flora of Sundarban delta, West Bengal, India. Phykos, India 27:48–53Google Scholar
  81. Panshin AJ (1932) An anatomical study of woods of the Philippine mangrove swamps. Philipp J Sci 48:143–208Google Scholar
  82. Pineda JFM (2003) Contribution of mangroves out welling to coastal food webs as a function of environmental settings. Ph. D. Thesis, University of Louisiana, USAGoogle Scholar
  83. Pirazzoli PA (1996) Sea level changes: the last 20000 years. Willey, New York, p 211Google Scholar
  84. Popp M (1995) Salt resistance in herbaceous halophytes and mangroves. Prog Bot 56:416–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Popp M, Polania J, Weiper M (1993) Physiological adaptations to different salinity levels in mangrove. In: Lieth H, Masoom Al A (eds) Towards the rational use of high salinity tolerant plants, vol 1. Kluwer Academic Publishers, UtrechtGoogle Scholar
  86. Prain D (2003) Flora of Sundarbans. Rec Bot Surv Ind 2(4):231–270Google Scholar
  87. Rahman MM, Khan MNI, Hoque AKF et al (2015a) Carbon stock in the Sundarbans mangrove forest: spatial variations in vegetation types and salinity zones. Wetl Ecol Manag 23:269–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Rahman MS, Hossain GF, Khan SA et al (2015b) An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Sundarban mangrove forest of Bangladesh. Bangladesh J Plant Taxon 22(1):17–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Saenger P (1982) Morphological, anatomical and reproductive adaptations of Australian mangroves. In: Clough BF (ed) Mangrove ecosystems in Australia. Australian National University Press, Canberra, pp 153–191Google Scholar
  90. Saenger P (2002) Mangrove ecology, silviculture and conservation. Springer, Kluwer Academic Publisher, DordrechtCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Saenger P, Snedaker SC (1993) Pantropical trends in mangrove above-ground biomass and annual litterfall. Oecologia 96:293–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Saenger P, West PW (2016) Determinants of some leaf characteristics of Australian mangroves. Bot J Linn Soc 180:530–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Saenger P, Hegerl EJ, Davie JDS (1983) Global Status of mangrove ecosystems. Commission on Ecology, Paper no. 3. IUCN, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  94. Salem ME, Mercer DE (2012) The economic value of mangroves. Sustainability 4:359–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Santra SC (1998) Mangrove lichens. Indian Biologist 30(2):76–78Google Scholar
  96. Santra SC, Pal UC, Maity H et al (1988) Blue green algae in saline habitats of West Bengal – a systematic account. Biol Mem 14(1):81–108Google Scholar
  97. Santra SC, Pal UC, Choudhury A (1991) Marine phytoplankton of the mangrove delta region of West Bengal. J Mar Biol Assoc India 33(1–2):292–307Google Scholar
  98. Sanyal P (1983) Mangrove tiger land: the Sundarbans of India. Tigerpaper 10(3):1–4Google Scholar
  99. Sanyal P (1999) Global warming in Sundarbans delta and Bengal coast. In: Guha Bakshi DN, Sanyal P, Naskar KR (eds) Sundarban Mangal. Naya Prakash, Calcutta, pp 111–114Google Scholar
  100. Sarkar D, Chattopadhyay GN, Naskar KR (1999) Nature and properties of coastal saline soils of Sundarbans with relation to mangrove vegetation. In: Guha Bakshi DN, Sanyal P, Naskar KR (eds) Sundarbans Mangal. NayaProkash, Calcutta, pp 199–204Google Scholar
  101. Scholander PF (1968) How mangrove desalinate sea water. Physiol Plant 21:251–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Seidensticker J, Hai MA (1983) The Sundarbans wildlife management plan. Conservation in the Bangladesh coastal zone. IUCN, Gland, p 120Google Scholar
  103. Seidensticker J, Kurin R, Townsend AK (eds) (1991) The commons in South Asia: societal pressures and environmental integrity in the Sundarbans. The International Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  104. Sen N, Naskar KR (2003) Algal flora of Sundarbans Mangal. Daya Publishing House, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  105. Siddiqi NA (1994) Natural regeneration. In: Hussain Z, Acharya G (eds) Volume 2: Bangladesh. World Conservation Union, Gland, pp 75–99Google Scholar
  106. Siddiqi NA (2001) Mangrove forestry in Bangladesh. Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Chittagong University, Chittagong, p 201Google Scholar
  107. Snedaker C (1991) Notes on the Sundarbans with emphasis on geology, hydrology and forestry. In: Seidensticker J, Kurin R, Townsend AK (eds) The commons in South Asia: societal pressures and environmental integrity in the Sundarbans. The International Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  108. Thom BG (1982) Mangrove ecology: a geomorphological perspective. In: Clough BF (ed) Mangrove ecosystem in Australia: structure, function and management. Australian National University Press, Canberra, pp 3–17Google Scholar
  109. Tomlinson PB (1986) The botany of mangroves. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  110. Twilley RR (1988) Coupling of mangroves to the productivity of estuarine and coastal waters. In: Jansson BO (ed) Coastal-offshore ecosystem interactions. Springer, Berlin, pp 155–180Google Scholar
  111. Twilley RR (1989) Impacts of shrimp mariculture practices on the ecology of coastal ecosystems in Ecuador. In: Stephen O, Luis A (eds) Establishing a sustainable shrimp mariculture industry in Ecuador. University of Rhode Island., Technical Report Series TR-E-6, Narragansett, pp 91–120Google Scholar
  112. Twilley RR, Day JW Jr (1999) The productivity and nutrient cycling of mangrove ecosystems. In: Yáñez-Arancibiay A, Lara Domínguez L (eds) Ecosystems de Manglaren América Tropical. Instituto de Ecología AC México, UICN/ORMA, Costa Rica, NOAA/NMFS, Silver Spring, pp 127–152Google Scholar
  113. Twilley RR, Lugo AE, Patterson-Zucca C (1986) Production, standing crop, and decomposition of litter in basin mangrove forests in Southwest Florida. Ecology 67:670–683CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  114. Umitsu M (1993) Late quaternary sedimentary environments and landforms in the Ganges delta. Sediment Geol 83:177–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  115. Vliet GJC, Van M (1979) Wood anatomy of the Combretaceae. Blumea 25:141–223Google Scholar
  116. Wadia DN (1973) Geology of India. Tata Mc Graw Hill Publishing Company, New Delhi, pp 370–371Google Scholar
  117. Walsh GE (1974) Mangroves: a review. In: Reimhold RJ, Queen WH (eds) Ecology of halophytes. Academic, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  118. Weber ME, Wiedicke MH, Kudrass HR et al (1997) Active growth of the Bengal fan during sea-level rise and high stand. Geology 25:315–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  119. Weiper M (1995) Physiologische and strukturelle Untersuchungenzur Salzregulationbeimangroven. Unpublished thesis. Westfählischen Wilhelms-Universität, MünsterGoogle Scholar
  120. Williams CA (1919) History of the rivers in the Gangetic Delta 1750–1918. Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta. (Reprinted 1966, East Pakistan Inland Water Transport Authority, Dhaka), p 96Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. N. Mandal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter Saenger
    • 2
  • Chandan Surabhi Das
    • 3
  • Abdul Aziz
    • 4
  1. 1.Regional Research Centre, ICAR-Central Institute of Freshwater AquacultureKolkataIndia
  2. 2.Centre for Coastal Management, Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  3. 3.Department of GeographyBarasat Govt. CollegeBarasatIndia
  4. 4.Department of BotanyUniversity of DhakaDhakaBangladesh

Personalised recommendations