Indian Sundarbans mangrove forest considered endangered under Red List of Ecosystems, but there is cause for optimism
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Sievers, M., Chowdhury, M., Adame, M., Bhadury, P., Bhargava, R., Buelow, C., Friess, D., et al. (2020). Indian Sundarbans mangrove forest considered endangered under Red List of Ecosystems, but there is cause for optimism. Biological Conservation, 251 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108751
Accurately evaluating ecosystem status is vital for effective conservation. The Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global standard for assessing the risk of ecosystem collapse. Such tools are particularly needed for large, dynamic ecosystem complexes, such as the Indian Sundarbans mangrove forest. This ecosystem supports unique biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions, but like many mangrove forests around the world is facing substantial pressure from a range of human activities. Holistic, standardised and quantitative environment risk assessment frameworks are essential here, because previous assessments have either been qualitative in nature, or have generally considered single threats in isolation. We review these threats and utilise the RLE framework to quantitatively assess the risk of ecosystem collapse. Historical clearing and diminishing fish populations drove a status of Endangered (range: Vulnerable to Endangered), and ongoing threats including climate change and reduced freshwater supply may further impact this ecosystem. However, considering recent change, the outlook is more optimistic. Mangrove extent has stabilised, and analysis of mangrove condition highlights that only a small proportion of the forest is degraded. Using the RLE provides an authoritative avenue for further protection and recognition of the issues facing this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We also identify knowledge and data gaps in the Sundarbans that are likely common to coastal systems globally. By articulating these and presenting opportunities and recommendations, we aim to further the conservation goals of the IUCN and the implementation of its new assessment framework.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108751
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/310626
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Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/