Unique insight into Chile's coastal ecosystem before and after 2010 earthquake

Unique insight into Chile's coastal ecosystem before and after 2010 earthquake

Natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis are expected to have substantial ecological effects, but if researchers don't have enough data about the environment before the disaster strikes, as is usually the case, it is difficult to quantify these repercussions.

The 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Chile is a rare exception to this trend, and researchers were able to conduct an unprecedented report of its ecological implications based on data collected on coastal ecosystems shortly before and after the event. The study is published on May 2 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers, led by Eduardo Jaramillo of Universidad Austral de Chile, found that Chile's sandy beaches experienced significant and lasting changes due to the earthquake and tsunami.

These ecosystem changes depended strongly on the direction and amount of land level change, the type of shoreline and the degree of human alteration of the coast.

The most unexpected results came from uplifted sandy beaches where intertidal species which had been excluded by the presence of coastal armoring before the earthquake, rapidly recolonized the new habitats.

The data they collected also provides some insight into the ecological effects of human-introduced alterations to the coastal landscape, which could help inform related projects in the future. (terradaily.com)

Jaramillo E, Dugan JE, Hubbard DM, Melnick D, Manzano M, et al. (2012) Ecological Implications of Extreme Events: Footprints of the 2010 Earthquake along the Chilean Coast. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35348. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035348

More on 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile 2010

The 2010 Chile earthquake occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February 2010, at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.It ranks as the sixth largest earthquake ever to be recorded by a seismograph. It was felt strongly in six Chilean regions (from Valparaíso in the north to Araucanía in the south), that together make up about 80 percent of the country's population.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) the cities experiencing the strongest shaking—VIII (Destructive) on the Mercalli intensity scale (MM)—were Arauco and Coronel. According to Chile's Seismological Service Concepción experienced the strongest shaking at MM IX (Violent). The earthquake was felt in the capital Santiago at MM VII (Very Strong)or MM VIII. Tremors were felt in many Argentine cities, including Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and La Rioja. Tremors were felt as far north as the city of Ica in southern Peru (approx. 2400 km).

The earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile and damaged the port at Talcahuano. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries, and the wave caused minor damage in the San Diego area of California and in the Tōhoku region of Japan, where damage to the fisheries business was estimated at ¥6.26 billion (USD$66.7 million). The earthquake also generated a blackout that affected 93 percent of the country's population and which went on for several days in some locations. President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" and sent military troops to take control of the most affected areas. According to official sources, 525 people lost their lives, 25 people went missing and about 9% of the population in the affected regions lost their homes.

Featured image: Claudio Núñez

Tags: chile