The Konkan coastline has unveiled a world of unusual species and offered Maharashtra with a wealth of ecotourism prospects.
Eight locations along coastal Maharashtra — three in Sindhudurg district namely Tambeldeg, Kunkeshwar and Bhogwe while five locations in Ratnagiri district including Katghar, Hedvi, Kharviwada, Velas and Velneshwar — have the potential for coastal tide pool tourism as a livelihood option for the local communities.
The intertidal zone of rocky coasts is home to some amazing formations, including intertidal rock pools (also known as tide pools), which serve as microhabitats for numerous coastal creatures. The rocky coast has the highest density of macroorganisms compared to other intertidal shores as well as the greatest diversity of animal and plant species. Numerous marine creatures use the tide pools as refuge, food sources and nursery grounds.
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The Mangrove and Marine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation of Maharashtra funded the study by the Sálim Ali Center for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) under its Small Grants Programme.
The study — Documentation of fauna from Tide pool ecosystems along the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg Coast, Maharashtra — led by Goldin Quadros, Shirish Manchi and Siddhesh Bhave found a wide range of sea creatures with 303 coastal species overall across these rocky tide pools.
This included 30 seaweed and algae species, 80 phytoplankton species, 73 zooplankton species, 90 species of megafauna, both vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles and fishes) and invertebrates (crustaceans, echinoderms, annelids, amphipods among others), as well as 30 bird species, across the two coastal Konkan districts covering 288 km.
“The ecosystems in rocky tide pools are significant because they support a wide range of biodiversity. These pools can soon provide food security, in addition to serving as nursery for a range of species. The coastal youth can have a means of subsistence if they have a grasp of ecosystem diversity, functions, and values,” said Goldin Quadros, Principal Scientist at SACON, and author of the study.
According to Virendra Tiwari, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Mangrove Cell and Executive Director, Mangrove Foundation, the goal was to systematically catalog the rocky tide pools and pinpoint the region’s rich biodiversity, which has shown this area’s potential for extensive tourism.
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“While this study was thought of from the point of view to assess biodiversity, the results of this study went a step ahead to show the emergence of ecotourism opportunities. With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, all of this also has the potential to reduce the loss of ocean biodiversity, provide bio-remedial treatments to clean up some areas of the ocean, and provide local fishing communities with a new source of income ,” he said.
Tiwari added that there has been relatively little tide pool research in India compared to other countries. As part of the ecotourism plan for these areas, the Mangrove Cell and Foundation are now planning to introduce tidepooling — an outdoor activity along the shoreline during low tide to view this previously hidden biodiversity and ecosystem at such rocky intertidal zones. “We are assessing the feasibility of introducing this activity across these eight locations by involving the local community, and further plans are being developed for this based on the study,” he said.
Researchers surveyed 45 rocky coastal areas and selected 25 locations with a continuous 500-metre long rocky coastline for this study.