Sunday, January 23, 2005

Coral in Sri Lanka after the tsunami

Interesting preliminary report based on rapid assessment in Sri Lanka posted on the BBC site at about 00.30am this morning (Sri Lanka reefs 'survive tsunami'):

Coral reefs around the coast of Sri Lanka may have suffered much less damage from the Indian Ocean tsunami than was initially feared, early surveys have suggested.

…"We have found some things that reflect the situation on land - and some things that don't," [says] Jerker Tamelander, marine programme co-ordinator of the World Conservation Union in Sri Lanka...

"One thing is that damage is very patchy. It varies a lot, from one area to another, and it varies a lot within a certain area.

"A lot of the mechanical damage seems to have been caused by boats washing over coral reefs, and in turn pushing over large boulders, so there's very site-specific damage - whereas on the broad scale, the mechanical damage is much less."

...Mr Tamelander has completed a survey of reefs of Sri Lanka's south-west coast, conducting a rapid assessment of environmental damage to coral reefs and sea-grass beds.

The area was badly affected on land, with "significant destruction" of terrestrial ecosystems. But in comparison, the underwater coral has not been so badly affected.

He now plans to head to the eastern side of Sri Lanka, where there are coral reefs that survived the 1998 bleaching to a much higher degree.

The force of the tsunami was potentially greater there than in the south-west.

He said that so far, however, he was "pleasantly surprised" by what had been found in Sri Lanka and also the Gulf of Mannar, in India.

"There are reports of several reefs in Thailand that have also withstood the impact very well," he said.

"At the same time, we have as yet unconfirmed or unquantified damage that is quite severe - but this is quite preliminary, and we need broader surveys to say more."

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