Kochi: Dismissing the heat burst theory, experts who studied the reasons for scorching of plants in some parts of Kerala coast, Thursday claimed that the phenomenon was caused by salt spray.
A detailed report of chemical analysis by the experts of Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS) has claimed that the scorching of plants reported from various coastal areas in the state is caused by the salt spray.
It was not due to heat burst, they said.
In their report, the experts claim that the salt content in the wilted leaves in Njarakkal and Edavanakkad areas in Ernakulam district was almost a ten-fold increase compared to that of fresh leaves in the areas.
"The trees and plants with high water holding capacity such as banana, hibiscus, and coconut leaves were found to be most affected," the report said.
The report also observes that this is a common phenomenon which has been reported for decades, but reduced rainfall and strong wind this monsoon season caused a greater impact.
The report shows that the level of salt content in fresh leaves collected from Njarakkal beach reported only 40.54 ppm, whereas the level of salt content in wilted leaves was 1.458 ppm, a high increase.
If it was a heat burst the entire plant would have been affected, the scientists observed adding that they had found fresh leaves and wilted leaves on a same plant.
The affected plants were on a particular height levelled to that of the tides in the season, and the plants above this height were not affected.
Heat burst must be more prominent in the upper layers of atmosphere, the study report said.
The report also observed that continuous process of sea spray would cause damage to agricultural initiatives in the land area.
"Excessive salt in terrestrial environments can lead to accelerated corrosion of human assets, salination of agricultural soils, elevated water stress, leaf necrosis and growth inhibition of plants that have low salt tolerance", the report said.
Onshore movement of salt due to sea spray directly impacts only the coastal region, however, dry aerosols may be transported further inland and attributed to the salinization of soils in agricultural areas far from the coast, it said.
KUFOS experts have also recommended for the setting up of a continuous monitoring system along the coastal belt of the state to assess the impact of sea spray on inland soils.
It also proposed that a detailed study is required to examine to what extent this excess salt is transported to into the land area and how it affected the agricultural fertility of soils in coastal inlands of the state.
KUFOS Vice Chancellor B Madhusoodana Kurup said a detailed proposal has been made by the varsity to study the impact of sea spray on pokkali fields.
Anu Gopinath, Assistant Professor of KUFOS conducted the chemical analysis of the samples collected from various parts of the coastal areas in the state.
S Suresh Kumar, Professor of KUFOS led the expert team, which includes Prasad Rao, S Rajendran, N N Raman, K Ranjeet, Anu Gopinath, S M Raffi and Benny N Peter.