Exploring Mangroves in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka (about Sri Lanka) beautiful Tropical Island is endowed with many types of natural vegetation. Sri Lanka is abundant with forests, grasslands, wetlands, marine and coastal habitats, inland and aquatic vegetation are of special significance. Mangrove of Sri Lanka shows a wide distribution covering most parts of the island, which estimated about 0.34% of the total land area or 6000 – 7000 ha is a very important Eco-system which provides a wide array of benefits to humans as well as for the balance of nature. About 29 mangrove species are found in Sri Lanka and they are distributed in mainly in Negombo, Kalutara, Bentota.
The mangrove ecosystem is considered to be very productive, fragile and resourceful. It Is also described as energy-subsidized Eco-system since the tidal currents do much Work in distributing the nutrients. Especially Mangroves of Sri Lanka help to protect the coast from tidal currents and other adverse factors such as Tsunami. The intertidal mangroves are important as a nursery ground for the fish and prawns due to the micro-climate provided by the mangrove trees and the enhancement of nutrients from the decomposing leaves.
Mangrove Eco-system is also important as a habitat for fauna including birds by providing food and resting and roosting sites to a number of wetland birds including migrant ones. Human population living near the coast also have benefited from the mangroves as it provides many benefits for their livelihoods. With the increase of human population, the demand on these vital Eco-systems has been increased to a rather unsustainable level and thus the depletion of the resource in many areas of the country.
The floristic diversity of mangrove Eco-system in Sri Lanka is rich compared to many countries. This is due to the diversity of climatic, edaphic and hydrological aspects of the coastal region. Mangrove species of 29 different types have been identified in Sri Lanka so far. In addition, the diversity of mangrove associates is also a unique feature in mangroves of this country. The rich species diversity has given a more established less fragile character to the mangrove Eco-system. This could be seen in abandoned prawn farms in Puttalam District where pioneer mangroves are growing with other pioneer species. Table 1 illustrates the floristic diversity of true mangroves.
Mangroves are a very valuable contributor to the biodiversity of the island and they are mostly seen in the areas of beaches, lagoons and bays. It is one of the most important forest types for the human as well as many species of aqua floral species and many fauna species. This forest type spread over a small area around the country. The vegetation in mangrove forest is mainly consisting of shrubs and trees. One of the important functions of the mangrove forest is protecting the land against the sea erosion due to the high tide and low tide. The trees are highly adapted to the aquatic environment where the water has a high concentration of salt. The trees and shrubs are heavily depending on the roots that appear from the water for air to breathe.
Mangrove forests are distributed around the island covering all parts of the country. But the distribution of mangrove forest is far wider in the district of Puttalam (north from Colombo) than other parts of the country. More than 300 hectares are covered with mangrove forests in the district of Puttalam. Mangrove forests create a rich unique bio-diversity around it, attracting large number animal species, aqua bird species, fish species and other animal species. Mangroves enable the formation of sand dunes creating a natural protection against the sea erosion. Same times it provides the best nesting habitat for many avian fauna species.
Some of the mangrove plants are used as vegetable and fruits while some of them are used to make medicines in Ayurveda. It is a rich source of food and inhabited by a large number of fish species including crabs and shrimps. Distribution of mangrove forest in Sri Lanka can be seen throughout the island covering all parts of the country as shown on the map.
Distribution of mangroves (in hactares) in district level
- Colombo 39
- Gampaha 313
- Puttalam 3210
- Mannar 874
- Kilinochchi 770
- Jaffna 2276
- Mulativ 428
- Trincomalee 2043
- Batticaloa 1303
- Ampara 100
- Hambantota 576
- Matara 238
- Galle 200
Most important mangrove forests in Sri Lanka
- Jaffna – Thndama aru lagoon, Nayaru lagoon, Kanni kadol lagoonand Kokilai lagoon.
- Koddiyar bay
- Tambalagamam bay
- Ihala Kalapu
- Lunama lagoon
- Kalametiya lagoon
- Negombo lagoon
- Chilaw lagoon
- Puttalam lagoon
- Kalaoya river
- Aruvi Aru
- Kalpitiya part1 and part2
- Wanata villu
- Kaluwa modara (Alutgama)
- Balapitiya (Madu river)
- Rekawa (Hambantota)
- Kahada Modara
The travellers are able to touch and feel this valuable eco-system in some areas of the island. When the travellers book a Sri Lanka tour and beach holiday they have a better chance of coming across places, where they can explore mangrove forests. Even the travellers who book Sri Lanka beach holiday packages have the opportunity to see these mangroves. Madu river boat trip at Balapitiya, Boat tour at Muthurajawela, Koggala river safari in Galle, and Negombo lagoon are the most popular places among the travellers to explore Sri Lanka mangroves and riverine vegetation.
Madu river is located near the popular Bentota beach resort and easily accessible for travellers who spend a beach holiday in Bentota, Kalutara, Ambalangoda and Hikkaduwa. Koggala river safari is a popular activity to explore mangroves, avian fauna species and other riverine vegetation among the travellers in Galle, Unawatuna, Koggala and other beach resorts in southern Sri Lanka. Negombo Lagoon and Muthurajawela are located near the airport and accessible to travellers in Negombo, Maravilla and Colombo.
Mangroves ecosystem is one of the best places to experience the rich diversity of Sri Lankan Fauna and Flora. Mangrove forests have a unique blend of Flora and Fauna that cannot be discovered in other forests on the island. These forests harbour a large number of aquatic avian fauna species such as kingfisher, herons. crocodile, water monitor and monkeys are also common animals that can be observed in mangrove forests.
Tour operators such as seerendipity tours organize day tours to these places on requests. Even some of the multiday Sri Lanka road trips cover these places.