This ESA image of the Ganges Delta is becoming one of the most iconic views of Earth from space, due in no small part to it appearing as the cover of British band Alt-J’s award-winning debut album An Awesome Wave.
The Ganges delta is world’s biggest, crossing the borders of Bangladesh and India. The delta plain, about 350-km wide along the Bay of Bengal, is formed by the confluence of the rivers Ganges, the Brahmaputra and Meghna.
The world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans, is located where the land meets the water. The Sundarbans, which means ‘beautiful forest’ in Bengali, provide a critical habitat for numerous rare species, including the Bengal tiger and the estuarine crocodile.
By using images from space like this, scientists can study how pollution, human encroachment, soil erosion and rising sea levels threaten to submerge large parts of the forest into the sea. In the past two decades, four mangrove islands have sunk and more are threatened.