A new study released today in the journal Science shows that areas buffered by coastal forests, like mangroves, were strikingly less damaged by the 2004 tsunami than areas without tree vegetation. This is believed to be the first peer-reviewed empirical and field-based study to document a clear link between coastal vegetation and protection from the tsunami. The study was undertaken by a large research team, comprising ecologists, a botanist, geographers, a forester, and a tsunami wave engineer, from seven nations.
"The tsunami left a horrific human tragedy in its wake but also some lessons. Among them is the tremendous importance of mangroves, which are one of the worlds most threatened tropical ecosystems," said Faizal Parish, director of the Global Environment Centre in Malaysia and co-author. "While no one could have prevented the tsunami, we can use this experience to prevent some of the destruction future events will cause."
The studys authors used before and after satellite photographs of the Cuddalore District in southeastern India and surveys on the ground to reach their conclusions. The study confirms earlier laboratory experiments which have shown that 30 trees per 100 square meters may reduce the maximum flow of a tsunami by more than 90 percent.
Tom Lalley | EurekAlert!
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