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  • Tsunami's ecological impact 'likely to be long-lasting'

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Last week's tsunami in the Indian Ocean is likely to have caused long-term ecological damage to the coastlines it struck, say scientists.

The worst damage is expected to be found between 100 and 1,000 metres from the shore and species living on the shoreline would have been badly affected, they say.

Fragile coral reefs are likely to have suffered significant damage and could take years to recover as they only grow about half a centimetre a year. Diving resorts in the Maldives renowned for their rich marine life were destroyed completely.

Mangrove forests — which fringe the coasts of tropical and subtropical countries — are also likely to have been affected. Although these forests can help mitigate the effect of tsunamis (see Mangrove forests 'can reduce impact of tsunamis') by absorbing some of their energy, they are likely to have suffered considerable disturbance. This would have affected species of fish that live and breed among mangroves roots.

Larger marine species such as whales and dolphins are unlikely to have been badly affected by the tsunami, as they will have headed towards deeper water where the tsunami measured only about 18 centimetres in height.

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