With extensive use of chemical fertilisers, there is a significant increase in the salinity of soil as well as water making it difficult for plants and other living organisms to survive. Halophytes are salt-tolerant plants that grow in waters with high salinity, such as in mangrove swamps, marshes, seashores and saline semi-deserts.
Only two% of the plant species found on the Earth are halophytes. As they are able to tolerate high salinity through different adaptation methods like tolerance, resistance and avoidance, they have less competition in saline environments. These plants can prove to be a feasible solution for fixing the soil and water composition in a region, apart from reducing the emissions.
In the state of Tamil Nadu and Goa, halophytes are found growing in waters with high salinity. These are the associates of the true mangrove plants.
Halophytes are generally colonisers and grow in areas which are subjected to periodic inundation. Being salt extractors, they perform the key function of reducing soil salinity and making the area more suitable for growing mangrove species.
Halophytic flora plays a major role in protecting coastal habitats and maintaining ecological stability. They often creep and act as sand dune binders. They prevent erosion to a great extent and seawater incursion into freshwater habitats. They also provide food and shelter for a large number of aquatic and terrestrial animal species.
Researchers have identified some halophytes which have the potential of yielding a sustainable supply of renewable resources like food, fodder, fibre, fuel, green manure and raw materials for pharmaceutical, industrial and household products.
Studies have shown that many halophytes can be used as sources of nutritious grain and oil, while some bear edible or economically-useful roots, bark, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.
Certain halophytes are able to accumulate and transform toxic levels of heavy metals (lead, cadmium and selenium) into organic compounds.
The commercial viability of halophytes is determined by screening relevant properties such as salt tolerance, nutritional value, palatability and digestibility. Halophytes are assessed to have potential as biomass crops to directly sequester up to 0.7 Gt C. Thus, halophytes, like trees, can play a significant role in mitigating climate change.
Many of the frontline field staff of forest departments in India have been unable to identify these valuable plants. This is why so far no tangible action has been initiated to propagate and protect halophytes by any government agency.
Since halophytes play such an important role in helping the establishment of mangroves which in turn protect the interior from tsunamis, cyclones and storms, it is very essential to propagate and protect them. Corporate initiatives and government support can prove to be extremely elemental in identifying, propagating and protecting the most useful plant species.
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The CSR Journal Team