May 5, 2012

SandBoxBlogs: Summit County Citizens Voice "Earthquakes destroy, but can also restore ecoysystems"

Bob Berwyn: 
"SUMMIT COUNTY — The devastating 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Chile had some unexpected consequences, restoring lost beaches and even entire coastal ecoystems, according to an international team of researchers who had a unique opportunity to take a close before-and-after look at the ecological impact of the 8.8 magnitude temblor.

“Dune plants are coming back in places there haven’t been plants, as far as we know, for a very long time. The earthquake created sandy beach habitat where it had been lost. This is not the initial ecological response you might expect from a major earthquake and tsunami,” said Jenifer Dugan, an associate research biologist at UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute.

The study also offers a preview of problems associated with sea level rise, a major symptom of climate change.

“When someone builds a seawall, not only is beach habitat covered up with the wall itself, but, over time, sand is lost in front of the wall until the beach eventually drowns,” Dugan said. “The semi-dry and damp sand zones of the upper and mid intertidal are lost first, leaving only the wet lower beach zones. This causes the beach to lose diversity, including birds, and to lose ecological function. This is an under-appreciated human impact on coastlines around the world, and with climate change squeezing beaches further, it’s a very serious issue to consider.”

“This is very important because sandy beaches represent about 80 percent of the open coastlines globally. Also, sandy beaches are very good barriers against the sea level rise we are seeing around the world. It is essential to take care of sandy beaches. They are not only important for recreation, but also for conservation,” said the study’s lead author, Eduardo Jaramillo, of Universidad Austral de Chile....."
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