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Massive coral death atrributed to earthquake

Researchers say over 300 kilometers of coastline heaved more than a meter upwards, exposing and killing corals in unprecedented numbers

Townsville 12 April 2007: Scientists have reported what is thought to be one of the world's greatest mass death of corals ever recorded as a result of the earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia on 28 March 2005.

The survey by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society - Indonesia Program (WCS-IP) and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE CRS) investigated the condition of coral reefs in Pulau Simeulue and Pulau Banyak off Aceh, Indonesia, in March 2007.

The surveys covered 35 sites along 600kms of coastline, have documented, for the first time, the effects of earthquake uplift on coral reefs. The entire island of Simeulue, with a perimeter of approximately 300 km, was raised up to 1.2 m following the 28 March 2005 earthquake, exposing most of the coral reefs which ringed the island.

Dr Stuart Campbell program leader of Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program reports "This is a story of mass mortality on a scale rarely observed. In contrast to other threats like coral bleaching, none of the corals uplifted by the earthquake have survived".

Dr Andrew Baird of ARC CoE CRS says: "Amazingly, the uplifted corals are so well preserved we could still identify each species, despite these colonies having been exposed for two years. Some species suffered up to 100 percent loss at some sites, and different species now dominate the shallow reef.

"This is a unique opportunity to document a process that occurs maybe once a century and promises to provide new insights into coral recovery processes that until now we could only explore on fossil reefs" says Dr Baird.

Dr Campbell adds "The news from Simeulue is not all bad. At many sites, the worst affected species are beginning to re-colonize the shallow reef areas. The reef
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Contact: Dr. Andrew Baird
Andrew.Baird@jcu.edu.au
61-074-781-4857
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
16-Apr-2007


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