Scientists say tsunami damage on reefs close to the 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake epicenter pales in comparison with human-caused damage.
Researchers from Queensland Australia's James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Indonesia Program, and Indonesia's Syiah Kuala University say tsunami damage was occasionally spectacular, but surprisingly limited particularly when compared with damage from chronic human misuse.
Ecologists visited a number of reefs in northern Aceh province. Some of the same reefs were visited in 2003, presenting a unique opportunity to assess the ecological impact of tsunamis on tropical marine ecosystems.
Researchers found direct tsunami damage largely restricted to corals growing in unconsolidated substrata. They found in areas where fishing has been controlled, coral cover was high. In contrast, reefs exposed to fishing had low coral cover and high algal cover -- a change the tsunami might exacerbate in bringing an influx of nutrients and sediments.
However, researchers found no evidence to suggest healthy reefs reduced tsunami-induced damage on land. The authors concluded human modification of the reef environment did not contribute to the magnitude of land damage.
The research is reported in the journal Current Biology.
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