Claims that coastal tree barriers can halt the might of a tsunami are false and dangerous, a team of international marine scientists said today.
There are many reasons for preserving the world's dwindling stocks of mangroves, but protecting people from tsunamis is not one of them, they say.
On the eve of the anniversary of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, which claimed nearly a quarter of a million lives around the eastern Indian Ocean, researchers have issued a strong warning against coastal communities and governments putting their trust in mangrove and tree barriers erected as a means of protection from earthquake-driven tidal waves.
"Following the Boxing Day Tsunami scientific studies were released which claimed that the damage to coastal communities had been less in places where there was a barrier of trees or coastal vegetation," explains Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.
"As a result there has been a lot of tree planting in coastal areas affected by the tsunami, in the hope it will protect coastal communities in future from such events.
"However these studies looked only at the presence or absence of vegetation and the extent of damage and did not take account of other important variables, like the distance of a village from the shore, the height of the village above sea level or the shape of the seabed in concentrating the tsunami's power."
The study by Dr Alexander Kerr of the University of Guam, Dr Baird, Ravi Bhalla and V. Srinivas of the Foundation for Ecological Research, Advocacy and Learning India concludes there is, as yet, no evidence that coastal tree belts can provide meaningful protection against a tsunami or, for that matter storm surges produced by cyclones, such as the surge that followed Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar early this year which killed over 150,000 people.
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|Contact: Andrew Baird|
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies