The word II mangrove" is a term used to describe a diverse group of plants that are adopted to a wet, saline habitat. Typically it refers to an individual species of salt tolerant plants of tropical and subtropical intertidal regions of the
word. These are the plants which live at the edge of the sea and they not only have an interesting morphology and
anatomy but also constitute a peculiar ecosystem which is extremely sensitive and fragile and equally productive like
rain forest. The book would help in understanding the ecological role and economical value of mangrove forests
and why they need to be protected.
After completing his M.Sc and Ph.D in Botany from Annamalai University, Dr. R. Panneerselvam joined the
Botany department as a Lecturer, where he is now heading
the department. His specialization is environmental physiology and Bio-diversity. Apart from authoring a large
number of research papers in various scientific journals, he has edited science text books at various levels. He evinces
keen interest in popularizing science at school and college level.
Earth is the only planet we know of with life on it. Animals, Plants and microorganisms maintain a delicate balance with a variety of life forms we call Biodiversity. Each species depends on other species for its existence. When we talk of life on earth, we also talk about the human species. If we need to understand and preserve our environment, we shall need to understand the interdependence of the species on each other and the importance of natural resources like air, water and soil for living beings.
Life has continued to evolve on this earth over millions of years adapting to changing environment. Only those species have survived that have adapted to the changing environment. This change could be due to natural causes like earthquakes, eruption of volcanoes, cyclones, and so on. It even could be due to climate change. However, quite often this change is brought about by the species higher up
in the ladder of evolution that tries to control environment to suit its needs and for development. This is precisely what human species has done to our fragile planet.
We need energy for development; which we traditionally obtain by burning natural resources like firewood, coal and petroleum. This is what we have been doing for centuries. Today there is consensus that hum activities like burning of fossil fuels and consequent pumping of gases like carbon dioxide into atmosphere ha s been responsible for the earth getting hotter and hotter Today, there are threats to our planet arising from dim change, degrading environment, the growing rate extinction of species, declining availability of fresh water rivers running dry before they can reach sea, loss of fertile land due to degradation, depleting energy sources, incidence of diseases, challenge of feeding an exponentially growing population, and so on. The human population is now large that the amount of resources needed to sustain exceeds what is available. Humanity's environment demand is much more that the earth's biological capacity
This implies that we are living way beyond our means consuming much more than what the earth can sustain.
To draw the attention of the world to these aspects in an attempt to establish that environment is where we live and development is what we all do in attempting to imp our lot, within that abode, the United Nations has declared the year 2008 as "The Year of the Planet Earth". It is ho that with the cooperation of all we shall be able to save the biodiversity and the life on this planet. A host of activities and programmes are being organized all over the world this purpose. One of the important aspects is to make aware about the challenges we face and the possible solutions to save this planet from heading towards catastrophe. It is with such thoughts that Vigyan P has initiated programmes with activities built around theme "The Planet Earth". The activities comprise.
Development and production of a series of informative
booklets, radio and television programmes, and CD-ROMs;
and training of resource persons in the country in
collaboration with other agencies and organizations.
It is expected that the present series of publications on the theme "The Planet Earth" would be welcomed by science communicators, science clubs, resource persons, and individuals; and inspire them initiate actions to save this fragile abode of ours.
At some time or the other, we have all been amazed by the magnificent architecture of Mother Nature. In my childhood, I was astonished to see the great profusion of plant and animal life all around me. I used to bombard my parents and my science teacher with questions about them. The puzzle that confronted me was centred around how plants could be distinct from one another? It was a question my young brain wanted to resolve.
I got a chance to do that when I was taken on an educational tour to Kodaikanal (Western Ghats). I had a chance to really enjoy the forest ecosystem for the first time. It was a hands-on experience that opened my eyes to the grand scheme underlying the natural world. From that moment onwards I perceived that a forest connects the sky and the soil. It contains gigantic trees that rise up from the surface of the earth, even as the roots anchor it in deep in the soil, while the crowns of leaves reach out towards the shining sun. The realization that all the threads of nature are interconnected was a lesson that I never forgot.
On another occasion, I had the opportunity to visit Pichavaram. I was still a child and enthralled to sail in a small boat down the narrow clustered canals. There seemed
to be a special type of plant growing on the banks of the salt water canals hugging the sea. I was thrilled when the leaves caressed my head as we passed beneath the overhanging branches. My father told me that this is a type of vegetation called the mangrove. He called it a mangrove forest. I remember the feeling of confusion that was generated in my tender mind at the use of the word "forest". Till then my idea of the word had been distinctly different from what I was seeing. Even the type of trees making up this 'forest' was distinct from, what my mind conceived of, as typical forest trees. It triggered an interest that would stay with me
all my life.
The plants living at the edge of the sea aroused my curiosity, which I have had the opportunity to sate by studying them over the years. I can confidently say that the combination and variety of morpholpgical and physiological adaptations found in this diverse and unique group of plants has no equal. I would like to share my knowledge about mangroves in this booklet and I hope the fascinating facts enchant other minds as they have mine.
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