Examining the ecosystem health and sustainability of the world's largest mangrove forest using multi-temporal MODIS products

Asif Ishtiaque, Soe Myint, Chuyuan Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Sweeping across Bangladesh and India, the Sundarbans forest is the world's largest contiguous mangrove forest. Although the human population density is high at the edge, Sundarbans has not encountered significant areal transformation in the last four decades. However, we argue that forest degradation can occur discontinuously within the forest without alteration of the entire forest area. In this paper, we used MODIS land products to compare the spatiotemporal ecological dynamics of the Bangladesh and Indian part of this mangrove forest between 2000 and 2010. We used the following 5 ecological parameters for our analysis: the Percent Tree Cover (PTC), Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI), Net Primary Productivity (NPP), Leaf Area Index (LAI), and Evapotranspiration (ET). Our pixel-based time-series trend analysis for each MODIS image stack, using an ordinary least square (OLS) regression method, showed that forest degradation is happening in fragmented parcels within the forest. The degradation rate is comparatively higher in the Bangladesh part than in the Indian part of Sundarbans. Compartments 8, 10, 12, and 15 in the Bangladesh part, in particular, show high degradation, while compartment 48 and the southern edge of 45 show slight increases in PTC or EVI. Forest degradation in the Indian part of the forest is evident in the National Park and Reserve Forest blocks; however, no substantial degradation is evident in the western section. We have identified certain anthropogenic stressors (i.e., oil pollution, shrimp farming) and natural stressors (i.e., increased salinity, cyclones, forest fire) which might be responsible for the observed degradation. We have provided sustainable planning options and policy transformation alternatives for those areas under pressure from these stressors. We anticipate that our analysis of forest degradation will help management agencies, conservators, and policy makers achieve better management of this world's largest mangrove forest for a sustainable future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1241-1254
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Ecosystem health
  • Forest degradation
  • Mangroves
  • Sundarbans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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