Mumbai : Maharashtra has become the first state to undertake the forensic timber identification of mangrove tree species with an objective to conserve the salt-tolerant coastal trees.
Stem and branch wood samples from 17 species from 12 genera belonging to nine families collected from Mumbai (Daravali, Madh), Navi Mumbai (Airoli), Panvel and eight locations at Sindhudurg along the state’s coastline were studied for various anatomical and physical properties.
The Institute of Wood Sciences and Technology (IWST), Bengaluru research will help in developing an inventory of wood anatomy of mangrove species along the Maharashtra coast. The Mangrove Foundation and state mangrove cell of the forest department released the report.
Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forests of mangrove cell said, “Owing to lack of information on mangrove wood anatomy, identification of the cut wood or those spotted on encroached forest land poses a real challenge to the mangrove cell and other enforcement agencies. However, with this database, we will now have a strong tool and proof to verify the type of trees up to the species level,” said N Mohan Karnat, former director, IWST and co-investigator of the project.
He further said, “This is exactly like the forensic analysis or DNA fingerprints for humans wherein even a small piece of wood can now be easily traced back to which species it is.”
Maharashtra is known for mangroves trees, it has 20 mangrove species spread over 320 sq. km across six districts. Out of which 50% mangrove forests are under government land declared as reserved forests while remaining areas fall under private land.
The mangroves are protected under various forest laws and the Bombay high court’s 2018 order banning the destruction of the trees but still there are cases of mangrove hacking, illegal transportation of timber, and encroachment on mangrove land. Mangroves are also used for firewood, building boats, and brick-burning and to make poles for various purposes.
Sheetal Pachpande, assistant director (projects), Mangrove Foundation and co-author of the book pointed out, “Data generated through this project is being summarized in the form of a book – Hand Book of Mangroves of Maharashtra: Morphology and Wood Anatomy – which is under publication. This study will provide a base for several researchers to understand the internal changes in the cell structure of mangrove wood due to changes in several environmental factors such as high salinity, lack of oxygen in sediment and diurnal tidal inundation.”