Mangrove forests enhance rice cropland resilience to tropical cyclones: evidence from the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area

01 Nov 2018

The densely populated coastline surrounding the BCA is frequently struck by intense tropical cyclones which can wreak havoc on the livelihoods of the poor rural. Coastal Odisha has been identified as one of the world's disaster-poverty hotspots, where exposure and sensitivity to natural hazards further entrench the impoverishment of coastal communities and hamper the current low levels of socio-economic development.

Rice cropping forms the main livelihood activity, and is crucial to food security in this region. Rice crops are particularly vulnerable to cyclone impacts; especially as crop-critical development stages (August-October) and harvest (October-November) coincide with meteorological conditions favouring tropical cyclone formation. Thus, cyclones have devastating impacts on rice crop development, food security and economic growth for an already poor population.

Mangroves have been shown to act as a buffer to the destructive forces of coastal hazards such as tsunamis, storm surges and cyclonic winds and they also provide a range of resources to help communities recover livelihoods after disasters.

A study using remote sensing imagery was undertaken to capture the longer term livelihood resilience benefits and to monitor the impact of the cyclone on rice croplands with and without the protection offered by the Bhitarkanika mangroves.

The results of the study revealed that rice croplands with an extensive mangrove buffer were more resistant to cyclone impacts than croplands without a mangrove buffer. Furthermore the study showed that the presence of mangrove buffers enhances the recovery trajectory of rice cropland productivity it took 3 years for croplands with no mangrove buffer to recover to levels of productivity in years following a cyclone.

Adapted from Murthi, R. and Buyck, B., IUCN (2014). Safe havens: Protected areas for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.