Monitoring mangrove forest dynamics of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India using multi-temporal satellite data from 1973 to 2000
Mangrove forests in many parts of the world are declining at an alarming rate—possibly even more rapidly than inland tropical forests. The rate and causes of such changes are not known. The forests themselves are dynamic in nature and are undergoing constant changes due to both natural and anthropogenic forces. Our research objective was to monitor deforestation and degradation arising from both natural and anthropogenic forces. We analyzed multi-temporal satellite data from 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s using supervised classification approach. Our spatio-temporal analysis shows that despite having the highest population density in the world in its periphery, areal extent of the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans has not changed significantly (approximately 1.2%) in the last ̃25 years. The forest is however constantly changing due to erosion, aggradation, deforestation and mangrove rehabilitation programs. The net forest area increased by 1.4% from the 1970s to 1990 and decreased by 2.5% from 1990 to 2000. The change is insignificant in the context of classification errors and the dynamic nature of mangrove forests. This is an excellent example of the co-existence of humans with terrestrial and aquatic plant and animal life. The strong commitment of governments under various protection measures such as forest reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, and international designations, is believed to be responsible for keeping this forest relatively intact (at least in terms of area). While the measured net loss of mangrove forest is not that high, the change matrix shows that turnover due to erosion, aggradation, reforestation and deforestation was much greater than net change. The forest is under threat from natural and anthropogenic forces leading to forest degradation, primarily due to top-dying disease and over-exploitation of forest resources.