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Ecological Aspects

Ecological Effects from Tsunami

By: Chelsea Robinette

Have you ever wondered what would happen if the coral reef surrounding your country was damaged? What if one of your crops won’t grow? Many people did not think to ask or question the ecological impacts of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 but the tsunami greatly impacted and altered the ecosystem where the tsunami hit and the areas surrounding it.  Due to the giant tsunami that hit Indonesia, the ecology of the country was altered by means of crops and the coral reefs.

One island that was affected as a result of the tsunami was the Car Nicobar Islands.  A study was conducted by The study showed that “vegetation killed by the saltwater” was “clearly visible” (Kumar, 2951).  The study also showed changes in “wave heights at the beach and inland;  run-up elevation (the water’s height relative to mean sea level at its farthest reach inland);  inundation distance (how far inland the water reached);  flow directions; damage to structures;  sediment deposition;  coastal subsidence; and  erosion and coastal response”  (Kumar, 2944).  Upon researching, the scientists concluded that the tsunami height was between “10–15 m high along the entire stretch of the coast from Malacca to Kimus” (Kumar, 2945).  The run-up study concluded that “different run-up levels” occurred “in different coastal areas” (Kumar, 2949).  Inundation had to be studied by satellite images and showed that “villages like Malacca, Kakana, Kimus, and Mus located in the south-eastern, south-western, and north-eastern parts of the islands” were struck by waves (Kumar, 2951).  Results from the study showed that water flowed “from all sides and flowed inland from all sides of the island” (Kumar, 2951).  Many of the buildings on the island were “badly damaged or completely washed away” (Kumar, 2952).  Two beaches were chosen to determine the sand deposition and it was recorded that sand was depostited “2.5m high on Aukchung beach and 1 m high on Arong beach” (Kumar, 2955).  The coast was found to have been subsidized “approximately 1–1.25 m” deep (Kumar, 2955).  For the erosion study it was discovered that “the shoreline eroded, beach sand was carried inland, and the coastal plain was flooded” (Kumar, 2956).  As a conclusion for the study, the Car Nicobar Islands were greatly affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami.  Since this one islands had this much damage, it can be concluded that other islands had as much damage done to them.

The coral reefs were affected by the tsunami.  Because of damage of the coral reefs “drainage patterns of tidal creeks on the flood plain” have been altered (Young, par 8). This results in a lack of a barrier between farmland and the ocean.  Coral damage ranged  “from 7.2% at Beacon Reef to 39.7% at Snapper Alley Point” (Chavanich, 180).  The damage that occurred to the reefs included the reefs being “broken, overturned, sand covered and recently killed coral colonies” (Chavanich 180-181).  As a result of coral damage, “coral communities and coastal profiles can be major factors influencing the movement of the currents generated by the tsunami and consequently may affect the pattern of coral damage by the tsunami” (Chavanich, 177).  Coral reefs play a major role in the ecology of the area affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami and the destruction of them has altered the area.

Crops were affected as a result of the tsunami but not as much as farmers previously thought.   Some crops were affected more than others and had detrimental effects on their growth and production; “crops such as peanuts have been badly affected”  (Young, par 2).  Unfortunately, “the team has not seen a single peanut crop left unaffected by the tsunami” (Young, par 5).    According to Fahmuddin Agus, the director of the Soil Research Institute in Bogor, Indonesia, “coastal landscape has been permanently changed. Some agricultural land has been lost for good and other tracts of land are badly affected” (Young, par 6). Farmers were really worried that the saltwater damage to their land might have saturated the land too much.  Thankfully for them, a lot of the saltwater did not penetrate as deep as they were worried about.  This would cause problems for the rice crops because the crop cannot be planted in saltwater.

Four of the islands that were affected by the tsunami included the Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, Simeulue Islands and Mentawai Islands.  All of these islands had a bird species that was either greatly affected by the tsunami or barely affected by the tsunami.  The Andaman Teal which is a duck from the Andaman Islands.  Because the duck lives along the coast, scientists are further researching how much the duck was affected by the tsunami.  The South Nicobar Serpent-eagle and Nicobar Parakeet reside on the Nicobar Islands.  On the Simeulue Islands, the Silvery Wood-pigeon has made its  home. The Mentawai Scops-owl lives on the Mentawai Islands.  All of these birds are rare and can only be found on their respective islands.   Scientists have not come to any finite conclusions but are hypothesizing that all of the birds will be affected because the previous islands have “low-lying” topography which is prime for a tsunami to affect their habitats (Threatened, par 4).   It is very important to figure out which birds were greatly affected because some of them only reside on their respected islands and were endanger before the tsunami.

In conclusion, the Indonesian tsunami affected the ecosystem where the tsunami hit and in surrounding areas.  Scientists are working to find ways to continue crop revival and to make sure the coral reefs are protected.  The are still investigating ways to warn people about tsunamis and how they can be sure that there is as minimal damage as possible.

Works Cited

Chavanich S, Viyakarn V, Sojisupor P, Siripong A, Menasveta P.  (2008) Patterns of coral damage associated with the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at Mu Ko Similan Marine National Park, Thailand. Jrnl. of Natural History. [Internet] [Cited 2010 Nov 3]; 42 (3/4): 177-187. Available from: http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/175821_915547621_791822914.pdf

Kumar A, Chingkhei R, Dolendro T.  2007. Tsunami damage assessment: a case study in Car Nicobar Island, India. Intl. Jrnl. of Remote Sensing. 28(13-14): [Internet] [cited 2010 Nov 3]; 2937-2959. Available from: http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/986308_915547621_779824442.pdf

Sheldrak R. 2005. Listen to the animals. Science Reference Center. [Internet] [cited 2010 Nov 3]; 35(2): 18-20. Available from: http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/animals/pdf/tsunami.pdf

Stoddart D R. 2007. Tsunamis and Coral Reefs.  Atoll Research Bulletin [Internet] [cited 2010 Nov 3]; 544: 1-110. Available from: http://www.livingoceansfoundation.org/docs/Coral%20Atoll%20Bulletin_Tsunamis%20and%20Coral%20Reefs.pdf

Threatened bird species and globally important habitats in the tsunami zone. (2005)BirdLife Intl. [Internet] [Cited 2010 Nov 10] Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/action/ground/asia_tsunami/affected_species.html

Young, Emma. 2009. Crop revival for Aceh after the tsunami. New Scientist [Internet] [cited 2010 Nov 3]; 187(2514): 9-9. Available from: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7912-crop-revival-for-aceh-after-the-tsunami.html

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