in the Bay of Bengal
between continental India and Burma
Approximately 77,769 ha of mangrove forest; total area
of islands 824,900 ha
Sea level to 70 m
Description of site:
The 348 islands of the Andaman
and Nicobar archipelagos are the peaks of a marine extension of the Arakkan
Yomas in Burma and the mountains of Sumatra. The 1962-km coastline is long,
irregular, and deeply indented by innumerable creeks, bays, and estuaries.
Humid, tropical, monsoon climate,
with an average annual rainfall of 3180 mm. The islands receive precipitation
from both the southwest and' northeast monsoons, which together account for
nine to ten months of the year. The dry months are February and March. Temperatures
range from 16.7°C - 32°C
There are an estimated 77,769
ha (out of a total forest cover of about 700,000 ha in 1986) under mangroves
distributed on major island groups as follows: Island Group Area under Important
Tidal Mangroves Creeks Supporting (ha) Mangroves North Andaman 29,701 Austen
Strait,Mohanpur, Kalighat,Parangara, Laxmipur Middle Andaman 23,100 Polobjij,
Charlungta, Humphrey Strait, Yerrata Creek, Kadamtala Creek, North Passage
Nicobar 2455 Car Nicobar, Tidal Creeks of Great Nicobar, Nancowry, and Katchal
Islands The mangrove forest zonation greatly resembles that of Pichavaram
and Cauvery systems in southern India.
A total of 34 species of mangrove, five shrubs, and two palms have been reported.
Rizophora mucronata is the most common species and, together with R. apiculata,
forms a canopy 10 m high along the principal water courses. Tidal mangrove
forest is replaced upstream by riverine or lowland evergreen forest. Cerbera
manghas, Heritiera littoralis, Brownlowia lanceolate, and Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea
are widespread transitional species. Towards the interior of the mangrove
forest, Bruguiera parviflora and B. gymnorhiza are abundant, the trees occasionally
exceeding 25 m in height. An undergrowth of Ceriops tagal is common.
The Rhizophoraceae form a distinct coastal fringe in which Aegiceras corniculatum
and Xylocarpusgranatum may alsobe found. This zonation varies in slight detail
from one bay to another. These are the only mangrove formations in India where
the nips palm (Nypa fruticans) is common. Large areas of primary forest remain,
on some of the islands, but most of the lowland areas have now been cleared
for agriculture. The flora has strong affinities with that of Southeast Asia.
In all, some 3000 plant species have been identified, including a substantial
number endemic to the islands.
There are interesting differences in vegetational composition between various
islands of the Andamans, between various islands of the Nicobars, and between
the Andamans and the Nicobars. South Andaman forests have a profuse growth
of epiphytic vegetation, mostly ferns and orchids; the Middle Andaman harbours
mostly moist, deciduous forests; North Andaman is characterised by wet, evergreen
growth, with plenty of woody climbers. The northern islands of the Nicobar
(including Car Nicobar and Battimalv) are marked by a complete absence of
evergreen forests, which form the dominant vegetation in the central and southern
islands of the Nicobars.
The wetlands support several rare and endangered wildlife species including
the dugong (Dugong dugon), an endemic race of the grey teal (Anal gibberifrons
albogularis), the estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), and several species
of marine turtles. Lahabarrack (crocodile) Sanctuary supports a significant
population of estuarine crocodile. The grey teal was once abundant in the
Andaman & Nicobar Islands, but numbers have fallen drastically in recent years,
with the largest population currently being found in North Reef Island. Little
is known of the ecology of this bird. Four species of sea turtles -- olive
ridley, green turtle, hawksbill and leathery/ leather back turtle -- have
been rendered endangered due to poaching of their eggs, quarrying on the nesting
beaches, and pollution.
The estuarine /saltwater crocodile has also declined considerably due to poaching
for its hide. Other threatened fauna of the Islands include the mammals: dolphin,
dugong, crab eating macaque, Andaman wild pig, blue whale; the reptiles: estuarine
crocodile, Andaman water lizard, reticulated python, green turtle, hawksbill
turtle, leathery turtle, olive ridley turtle; the birds: white-bellied sea
eagle, peregrine falcon, Narcondam hornbill, megapode, osprey, Nicobar pigeon.
Mam endemic species and races of terrestrial vertebrates remain in the unexploited
forests of both island groups.
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