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Ecosystems destroyed by last month's tsunami urgently need to be restored to protect the region in the long term and to allow devastated communities to regain their livelihoods, say environmental organisations.

Damage caused by the tsunami, such as pollution of freshwater with saltwater and the uprooting of mangrove forests that act as buffers against typhoons, could have serious consequences for communities who depend on healthy coastal ecosystems for food, fuel and shelter.

Some organisations are using satellite images and divers to document the tsunami's impact, and the United Nations Environment Programme has committed US$1 million towards assessment efforts. Monitoring the damage is proving to be difficult, however, because some local research facilities that could have helped were also damaged by the tsunami.

Researchers have commented that the tsunami's effects were greatest where the environment was already damaged. They stress the need for preventive measures to protect against future natural disasters.

Link to full news story in Nature

Reference: Nature 433, 94 (2005)

Link to SciDev.Net's news focus 'Tsunami update'