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Coral reefs as buffers during the 2009 South Pacific tsunami, Upolu Island, Samoa

McAdoo, B.G. and Ah-Leong, J.S. and Bell, L. and Ifopo, P. and Ward, J. and Lovell, Edward R. and Skelton, Posa A. (2011) Coral reefs as buffers during the 2009 South Pacific tsunami, Upolu Island, Samoa. Earth-Science Reviews, 107 (1-2). pp. 147-155. ISSN 0012-8252

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Abstract

The coral reef bordering the coastline of Samoa affected by the 29 September 2009tsunami provides a variety of ecosystem services — from nurseries for fisheries and inshore source of food for local communities, to aesthetics for tourists, and the width of the lagoon may have been a factor in reducing the onshore wave height. To understand the complex interactions between the onshore human population and the offshore coral, we formed an interdisciplinary survey team to document the effects the tsunami had on the nearshore coral reef, and how these changes might affect local inhabitants. The scale of reef damage varied from severe, where piles of freshly-killed coral fragments and mortality were present, to areas that exhibited little impact, despite being overrun by the tsunami. We found that many coral colonies were impacted by tsunami-entrained coral debris, which had been ripped up and deposited on the fore reef by repeated cyclones and storm waves. In other places, large surface area tabular coral sustained damage as the tsunami velocity increased as it was funneled through channels. Areas that lacked debris entrained by the waves as well as areas in the lee of islands came through relatively unscathed, with the exception of the delicate corals that lived on a sandy substrate. In the lagoon on the south coast with its steep topography, coral colonies were damaged by tsunami-generated debris from onshore entrained in the backwash. Despite the potential for severe tsunami-related damage, there were no noticeable decreases in live coral cover between successive surveys at two locations, although algal cover was higher with the increased nutrients mobilized by the tsunami. While there was an immediate decrease in fish takes in the month following the tsunami, when supporting services were likely impacted, both volume and income have rapidly increased to pre-tsunami levels. Long-term monitoring should be implemented to determine if nursery services were affected.

Item Type: Journal Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GC Oceanography
Divisions: Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > School of Marine Studies
Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) > Institute of Applied Science
Depositing User: Ms Shalni Sanjana
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2011 20:01
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2012 20:01
URI: http://repository.usp.ac.fj/id/eprint/4792
UNSPECIFIED

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