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Massive coral death attributed to earthquake

NEW YORK (APRIL 11, 2007) -- Scientists have reported what is thought to be one of the worlds greatest mass death of corals ever recorded as a result of the earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia on 28 March 2005.

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

The surveys covered 35 sites along 600 kms (372 miles) 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 (186 miles), was raised up to 1.2 m (3.9 feet) following the 28 March 2005 earthquake, exposing most of the coral reefs which ringed the island.

Dr Stuart Campbell coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Marine 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 ARCCoERS 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 reefs appear to be returning to what they looked like before the earthquake, although the process may take many years.

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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
11-Apr-2007


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