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Coastal Habitats & Ecosystems

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The coastal ecosystems occur where the land meets the sea and that includes a diverse set of habitat types like the mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, estuaries and lagoons, backwaters etc. These ecosystems provide a wide range of services for the welfare of humans both directly and indirectly that includes provisioning services (fisheries); regulating services (carbon sequestration, prevention of erosion, moderation of extreme events); supporting services (element and nutrient cycling) and cultural services (tourism and recreational). The quality of the ecosystem services depends on the resilience of the ecosystems.

NCCR has been a fore runner in the development of scientific tools and techniques for the management of coastal critical habitats like Mangroves, Coral reefs and turtle nesting grounds and had developed GIS based critical habitat information system for 11 critical habitats along the Indian coast namely  Gulf of Mannar (GoM), Gulf of Kachchh, Lakshadweep Islands, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Malvan and Sundarbans, Pichavaram, Coringa, Karwar Island, Gahirmatha and Cochin backwaters during the 10th and 11th plan period.

However, these ecosystems are facing a multitude of local and global challenges caused by human activities such as urbanization, engineering modifications, over fishing etc resulting in progressive transformation of the ecology these ecosystems. Excessive nutrient loadings from agriculture, domestic and industrial sector have become a serious environmental issue in estuaries, bays and coastal waters causing eutrophication and unusual phytoplankton blooms. Frequent occurrences of hypoxia have caused significant reduction of fishery harvests, toxic algal blooms, and loss of biodiversity. Similarly, the natural influences such as changing scenarios of global climate in terms of global warming, increasing frequency of heat waves, cyclones, extreme events of precipitation and flooding, sea level rise, alterations of global hydrological cycles and changes in monsoonal behavior etc. affect the functioning of biogeochemical cycles of these coastal ecosystems.

The coral reefs of Gulf of Mannar are facing threats due to natural causes (climate change, ocean acidification, and coral bleaching) and man-made activities like indiscriminate fishing and trawling. The National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) has established a Field Research Center in Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve (GoMBR) for effective conservation and management of coastal resources and also to improve the livelihood status of the coastal communities.

In an effort to protect and preserve the coastal ecosystem and understand the health of the ecosystems in terms of productivity, NCCR undertakes projects under two major domains namely

  •  Coastal Resource Assessment and Management
  •  Ecosystem based services - an approach for the management of coastal areas

 

In order to achieve the above, the following activities were taken up

  • Understanding the coupled physical and biogeochemical processes in different coastal ecosystems
  • Simulation of hydrodynamic characteristics, water quality and phytoplankton biomass in terms of chlorophyll through models.
  • Monitoring, mapping and restoration of coral reef ecosystems
  • Biogeochemistry of coral reefs and the impact of bleaching, sedimentation, diseases & ocean acidification on coral reefs
  • Assessing the marine resources and undertake stock enhancement activities through sea ranching.
  •  Technology transfer on hatchery production of commercially important marine finfish and shellfish species for improvement of livelihood of fishing community.