Dr. Naveen Namboothri (Dakshin Foundation)
Dr. Elrika D’souza (Nature Conservation Foundation)
Dr. Kartik Shanker (Centre for Ecological Sciences)
Dr. Rohan Arthur (Nature Conservation Foundation)
Dr. S Venu (Pondicherry University)
Dr. Vardhan Patankar (Wildlife Conservation Society)
Coastal and marine ecosystems, including mangroves, are under increasing pressure due to anthropogenic impacts including resource use, coastal development, pollution and climate change and associated sea level rise. Given the importance of marine biodiversity and the dependence of coastal communities on these resources, it is imperative that these ecosystems are monitored in the long-term. Coastal and marine monitoring can be divided into physical and biological components. For coastal ecosystems, it is necessary to monitor shoreline changes in response to developmental activities and sea level changes, as well as change in distribution and structure of mangroves. Temperatures need to be monitored, particularly in the context of impacts on endangered species such as marine turtles, where hatchling sex ratios are determined by temperature and in the context of impacts on entire ecosystems (such as coral bleaching). Upstream changes can have substantial impact on coastal systems and thereby it is necessary to monitor sediment load and organic and inorganic pollutants that can have severe impacts on critical coastal ecosystems such as coral reefs and seagrass beds. Biologically, it is necessary to monitor abundance and diversity, population demography and dynamics as well as ecosystem processes.
Mangroves are an important component of India’s coastline. They form a dynamic ecotone between ocean-continent interfaces and are constantly subjected to changing hydrological, geological and ecological factors. Against the backdrop of global climate change and rising sea levels, conservation and restoration of these coastal forests is crucial. For this, structure and distribution of mangroves will be monitored through permanent plots and remote-sensing applications.
Simple protocols can be used to conduct beach profiling, and can be repeated seasonally or annually to monitor changes in the width, height and slope of beaches. Air, sand and water temperatures will be monitored in the context of impacts on ecosystem, as also sediment load and organic and inorganic pollutants. Long-term monitoring of marine ecosystems such as intertidal rocky shore ecosystems, coral reefs and seagrass meadows will be carried out using permanent plots. Coral reef cover will assessed at index sites in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Simultaneously, predation and herbivory assays can also be carried out to measure and track ecosystem processes. In addition, novel monitoring techniques using automated reef monitoring structures will be initiated.
Long term monitoring programmes of endangered species such as marine turtles and dugongs will be continued at index sites. Monitoring of other endangered species such as sharks and groupers will be initiated in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Monitoring of fishery resources will be carried out in collaboration with local organisations, institutions, groups and communities; parameters such as body size provide a good index of population trends, while data on catch composition can provide insights into the spatio temporal changes in population/community structures. While monitoring fisheries, it is also necessary to monitor bycatch, as this can indicate impacts on endangered species, as well as provide insights into the status of the fishery itself.