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Trees won't stop tsunamis, scientists warn
Date:12/25/2008

erous to rely on tree planting alone to shield coastal communities in the event of future tsunami or storm surges, they warn and doing so could lead to further tragedies.

The team's analysis of the pattern of damage of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami shows that many variables were at work in determining how the force of the water affected people and structures on land, and these all need to be taken into account not just a few of them.

The findings have major implications for civil defence and emergency planning, the cost of restoring affected regions and in minimizing the death and destruction suffered by some of the poorest communities in the world, the team says.

"The idea that planting 'green belts' can both protect coastal communities and enhance their environment has been widely accepted," Dr Baird explains. "As a result a number of governments, aid agencies and scientists have been promoting it enthusiastically.

"However this could place the communities shielded in this way at future risk. Mangroves should be protected for their conservation value, and for the goods and services they provide to people even if they don't protect coastal dwellers from extreme events."

"In my own visits to the tsunami-ravaged areas, I saw places where quite heavy vegetation had provided absolutely no protection at all against the force of the ocean, and this led us to investigate the assumption more deeply. It turns out it was not well founded."

To fully explore what drives the flooding following tsunami like the Boxing Day Tsunami, and storm surges, like those that could accompany any of the many cyclones that hit northern Australia each year, an extensive, statistically-sound analysis needs to be carried out of all the factors which may act on the force of the waves driving inland.

These include the height of the settlement above the sea, its distance, the shape of the sea bottom and local land uses. These make the
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Contact: Andrew Baird
Andrew.Baird@jcu.edu.au
61-040-028-9770
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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