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
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty