Multiple values of Bhitarkanika mangroves for human well-being: synthesis of contemporary scientific knowledge for mainstreaming ecosystem services in policy planning

In Journal of Coastal Conservation
Peer-reviewed Article

Bhitarkanika National Park and Mahanadi Delta are the most biologically diverse mangrove patches of India. Due to inadequate representation of the value of the mangroves in decision-making, mangroves of Bhitarkanika and Mahanadi delta have undergone a rapid decline in the last fifty years. Thus, there is a growing need to assess the ecosystem services and multiple values of mangrove ecosystems in the region, and to identify the various anthropogenic and environmental drivers acting upon them. In this paper, we conducted a bibliometric analysis, followed by a synthesis of contemporary knowledge to understand the diverse ecosystem services of the Bhitarkanika mangroves and the existing data gaps for the protection and sustainable management of mangroves. It was observed that Bhitarkanika mangroves primarily serve as a buffer to coastal storms, tsunamis, and cyclones, and they also contribute immense provisioning, and cultural ecosystem services for human well-being. The present review provides a comprehensive database projecting important ecosystem services and multiple values (including carbon sink potential, pollinator benefits, and protection from storm surges) of Bhitarkanika mangrove forests. We found that there is significant pressure on the mangroves of Bhitarkanika due to increasing aquaculture, environmental pollution, industrialization, storm surges, and frequent cyclones. The present study helps to understand the urgent need of protecting the existing mangroves and to devise a coastal zone policy framework and strengthening participatory approaches for the preservation of dense and intact mangroves of Bhitarkanika and Mahanadi delta.