Sea and jungle life bounce back from the tsunami's battering

The first assessment of the damage to wildlife caused by the Asian tsunami found nature has been surprisingly resilient to the effects of the giant waves.

The first assessment of the damage to wildlife caused by the Asian tsunami found nature has been surprisingly resilient to the effects of the giant waves.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have been killed and entire coastal settlements wiped out in the aftermath of the Boxing Day earthquake that sent a tsunami across the Indian Ocean. Scientists who have completed an extensive investigation into the impact on the wildlife of Sri Lanka - one of the worst-affected countries - have, however, found little lasting damage to the natural landscape.

Sanjayan Muttulingam, a Sri Lankan-born scientist with the Nature Conservancy in the United States, said the two-and-a-half-week field trip with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society entailed a survey of the country's largest coral reefs and terrestrial wildlife parks.

"We carried out four different surveys of the marine environment and found low to minimum damage to the coral reef, although the water is still very murky," Dr Muttulingam said. Divers who visited the reef saw much evidence of the mayhem caused on land - debris ranging from shoes to large metal poles and abandoned fishing nets, although much of the coral was still healthy and intact.

"The conditions were rough and there were items strewn over the reef, including pipes, blocks of cement and boat fragments. The coral showed only minimal signs of recent breakage, most notably at Hikkaduwa [a marine park]. In all, the live coral seemed to have fared well," Dr Muttulingam said.

In terms of Sri Lanka's coral reefs, which are an important attraction for the tourist industry, the main threat now is from the debris that still continues to scrape away and destroy the delicate coral life forms, he said.

"The good news is that damage to the reefs we studied from the tsunami was low but the bad news is that unless we clean up the debris left behind there will be further damage," he said.

The survey team also investigated the impact on Yala national park, which comprises 250,000 acres of protected dry scrub forest and estuaries. Yala has 50 miles of mostly undisturbed coastline.

Land along the coast had been devastated and the human settlements reduced to fields of rubble but the destruction was very localised. "There is major structural damage to the vegetation and the grass is almost uniformly brown in areas inundated by the water. However, there are already extensive signs of regrowth and regeneration," Dr Muttulingam said. "As we went deeper into the jungle, the signs of obvious destruction receded," he said.

In one place, the tsunami swept through the forest for up to two miles and the land looks like a moonscape. But most other areas appeared untouched. The scientists estimated that between 5 and 8 per cent of Yala Park had been affected but in many areas the grass and trees were already beginning to regenerate, he said.

"The resilience of nature is very strong. I saw lots of sounds and signs of wild animals. I'd be surprised if in two years we're able to distinguish many of the areas that have been damaged from those left unscathed."

Although no study of the Maldives is known, it is likely the reefs there displayed similar resistance to damage.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

£28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil