Title: Are the Wetlands of Southern India in peril - A Time Scale Analysis
Dr. S. Bijoy Nandan, Professor of Microbiology and Biochemisty
Cochin University of Science & Technology, India
The South West (S.W) coast of India is blessed with a series of wetland systems known as Kayals / backwaters, estuaries, lagoons, inlets or barrier islands. These unique water bodies are an abode for several resident or migratory fish and shellfish species that support the fishing and livelihood activities of about 0.2 million fisher folk. The adjoining mangroves and agricultural wetlands also form important ecotypes contributing to the coastal productivity and the carbon pool. For the last few decades, these prized ecosystems have been under severe stress from human activities and climate change. This contribution elaborates on the environmental and biotic changes in these wetlands based on a time scale in relation to various stress factors. The pH generally varied from acidic to alkaline conditions. Methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide emissions coincided with a declining carbon pool in these systems. Carbon potential and sequestering capacity of selected systems indicated a decelerating trend. Hypoxic to anoxic trends could be observed in some of the backwaters, along with sulphide production and high organic enrichment combined with denitrification activity. Such characteristic dead zones were areas of intense retting activity, having very low primary and secondary production. High trophic index was observed in the backwaters that indicated severe eutrophication trends.The diversity of plankton and benthos were higher during the pre-monsoon as compared to the monsoon and post-monsoon periods in most of the wetlands. Depletion in biotic production potential leading to the displacement and loss of many endemics were noticed in the studies. The study has suggested measures for the sustainable management of these unique coastal ecosystems of India.
Dr. S. Bijoy Nandan is U.S Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary. He is Associate Professor in Dept. of Marine Biology, Microbiology & Biochemistry, School of Marine Sciences, Cochin University of Science & Technology, India. He has earlier served as the Head of Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute (ICAR), Kerala Unit and also as Senior Officer in Central Institute of Fisheries, Nautical & Engineering Training, Govt. of India.
His area of interest is marine ecology, marine ecotoxicology and biology of polar communities. Dr Bijoy has 25 years’ experience in teaching, research and development activities and is currently implementing several research projects funded by the national and state agencies in India. He has 85 peer reviewed publications to his credit. Bijoy has received several awards of which, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award in 1993 of Govt. of India for Best PhD thesis in Aquatic science in the country and the Recognition Award of Zoological Society of India in 2008 have been outstanding. He is a recipient of several national and international fellowships including the United Nations University Fellowship (2002) and the UNESCO Fellowship (2008). His field research includes sites along the east and west coast of Indian Ocean, the estuarine systems in India, the coral lagoons of Lakshadweep Island and the Arctic fjord in Norway as member of Indian Arctic Expedition.