Andaman Nicobar India

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Andaman and Nicobar Islands India

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Location: in the Bay of Bengal between continental India and Burma
Area: Approximately 77,769 ha of mangrove forest; total area of islands 824,900 ha
Altitude: 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.

Climatic conditions: 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

Principal vegetation: 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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