Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

First-of-its-Kind Study Reveals Surprising Ecological Effects of 2010 Chile Earthquake

May 07, 2012
The reappearance of long-forgotten habitats and the resurgence of species unseen for years may not be among the expected effects of a natural disaster.

Yet that's exactly what researchers found in a study of the sandy beaches of south central Chile, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami in 2010.

Their study also revealed a preview of the problems wrought by sea level rise--a major symptom of climate change.

In a scientific first, researchers from Southern University of Chile and the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) were able to document the before-and-after ecological impacts of such cataclysmic occurrences.

A paper appearing today in the journal PLoS ONE details the surprising results of their study, pointing to the potential effects of natural disasters on sandy beaches worldwide.

The study is said to be the first-ever quantification of earthquake and tsunami effects on sandy beach ecosystems along a tectonically active coastal zone.

"So often you think of earthquakes as causing total devastation, and adding a tsunami on top of that is a major catastrophe for coastal ecosystems," said Jenny Dugan, a biologist at UCSB.

"As expected, we saw high mortality of intertidal life on beaches and rocky shores, but the ecological recovery at some of our sandy beach sites was remarkable.

"Plants are coming back in places where 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."

Their findings owe a debt to serendipity.

The researchers were knee-deep in a study supported by FONDECYT in Chile and the U.S. National Science Foundation's (NSF) Santa Barbara Coastal Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site of how sandy beaches in Santa Barbara and south central Chile respond, ecologically, to man-made armoring such as seawalls and rocky revetments.

By late January, 2010, they had surveyed nine beaches in Chile.

The earthquake hit in February.

Recognizing a unique opportunity, the scientists changed gears and within days were back on the beaches to reassess their study sites in the catastrophe's aftermath.

They've returned many times since, documenting the ecological recovery and long-term effects of the earthquake and tsunami on these coastlines, in both natural and human-altered settings.

"It was fortunate that these scientists had a research program in the right place--and at the right time--to allow them to determine the responses of coastal species to natural catastrophic events," said David Garrison, program director for NSF's coastal and ocean LTER sites.

The magnitude and direction of land-level change resulting from the earthquake and exacerbated by the tsunami brought great effects, namely the drowning, widening and flattening of beaches.

The drowned beach areas suffered mortality of intertidal life; the widened beaches quickly saw the return of biota that had vanished due to the effects of coastal armoring.

"With the study in California and Chile, we knew that building coastal defense structures, such as seawalls, decreases beach area, and that a seawall results in the decline of intertidal diversity," said lead paper author Eduardo Jaramillo of the Universidad Austral de Chile.

"But after the earthquake, where significant continental uplift occurred, the beach area that had been lost due to coastal armoring has now been restored," said Jaramillo. "And the re-colonization of the mobile beach fauna was underway just weeks afterward."

The findings show that the interactions of extreme events with armored beaches can produce surprising ecological outcomes. They also suggest that landscape alteration, including armoring, can leave lasting footprints in coastal ecosystems.

"When someone builds a seawall, beach habitat is covered up with the wall itself, and over time sand is lost in front of the wall until the beach eventually drowns," said Dugan.

"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."

Sandy beaches represent about 80 percent of the open coastlines globally, said Jaramillo.

"Beaches are very good barriers against sea level rise. They're important for recreation--and for conservation."

The National Science Foundation (NSF)


Related Earthquake Current Events and Earthquake News Articles


Caltech geologists discover ancient buried canyon in South Tibet
A team of researchers from Caltech and the China Earthquake Administration has discovered an ancient, deep canyon buried along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in south Tibet, north of the eastern end of the Himalayas.

Seismic Hazard in the Puget Lowland, Washington State, USA
Seismic hazards in the Puget Lowland of northwestern Washington include deep earthquakes associated with the Cascadia subduction zone and shallow earthquakes associated with crustal faults across the region.

Study shows tectonic plates not rigid, deform horizontally in cooling process
The puzzle pieces of tectonic plates that make up the outer layer of the earth are not rigid and don't fit together as nicely as we were taught in high school.

Study of Chile earthquake finds new rock structure that affects earthquake rupture
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found an unusual mass of rock deep in the active fault line beneath Chile which influenced the rupture size of a massive earthquake that struck the region in 2010.

'Integrated Play Groups' help children with autism
It's an often agonizing challenge facing any parent of a child with autism: How can I help my son or daughter socialize with his or her typically developing peers? The solution, SF State's Pamela Wolfberg found, may lie in a different type of playgroup that focuses on collaborative rather than adult-directed activities.

Radiation exposure linked to aggressive thyroid cancers
For the first time, researchers have found that exposure to radioactive iodine is associated with more aggressive forms of thyroid cancer, according to a careful study of nearly 12,000 people in Belarus who were exposed when they were children or adolescents to fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

Rising above the risk: America's first tsunami refuge
Washington's coast is so close to the seismically active Cascadia Subduction Zone that if a megathrust earthquake were to occur, a tsunami would hit the Washington shoreline in just 25 minutes.

Some sections of the San Andreas Fault system in San Francisco Bay Area are locked, overdue
Four urban sections of the San Andreas Fault system in Northern California have stored enough energy to produce major earthquakes, according to a new study that measures fault creep.

NASA's Swift Mission Observes Mega Flares from a Mini Star
On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

Finding hints of gravitational waves in the stars
Scientists have shown how gravitational waves-invisible ripples in the fabric of space and time that propagate through the universe-might be "seen" by looking at the stars.
More Earthquake Current Events and Earthquake News Articles

Earthquake (Earthbound)

Earthquake (Earthbound)
by Aprilynne Pike (Author)


Tavia Michaels has discovered that she’s an Earthbound—a fallen goddess with the power to remake the Earth—and that a rival faction of Earthbounds, the Reduciata, has created a virus that is literally wiping swaths of the planet out of existence. 
 
Tavia is captured and imprisoned before she can act on this information, along with her eternal lover, Logan. Huddled in a claustrophobic cell, they lose track of the days, their attempts to escape proving as ephemeral as Tavia’s newly gestating powers. But then Tavia and Logan are mysteriously rescued. . . .

They’re brought to the underground headquarters of the Curatoria, another group of Earthbounds that Tavia doesn’t fully trust. There, she’s told that she can save the Earth before it disappears. She...

Earthquakes

Earthquakes
by Seymour Simon (Author)


Seymour Simon knows how to explain science to kids and make it fun. He was a teacher for over twenty years, has written more than 250 books, and has won multiple awards. In Earthquakes, Simon introduces elementary-school readers to earthquakes through engaging descriptions and stunning full-color photographs. He teaches readers why and how earthquakes happen and the damage they can cause through pictures, diagrams, and maps. He also gives real life examples of earthquakes that have occurred all over the world. This book includes a glossary and index.Supports the Common Core State Standards

Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest

Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest
by Sandi Doughton (Author)


Scientists have identified Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver as the urban centers of what will be the biggest earthquake, also called a mega-quake, in the continental United States. A quake will happen--in fact it's actually overdue. The Cascadia subduction zone is 750 miles long, running along the Pacific coast from Northern California up to southern British Columbia. In this fascinating book, The Seattle Times science reporter Sandi Doughton introduces readers to the scientists who are dedicated to understanding the way the earth moves and describes what patterns can be identified and how prepared (or not) people are. With a 100% chance of a mega-quake hitting the Pacific Northwest, this fascinating book reports on the scientists who are trying to understand when, where, and just how big...

DK Readers L4: Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters

DK Readers L4: Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters
by Harriet Griffey (Author)


DK is reissuing some of its most beloved Readers with a fresh new look, perfect for 21st century kids! From the eruption of Mount Vesuvius to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Earthquakes and Other Natural Disasters brings readers face to face with some of the deadliest natural disasters of all time and teaches the scientific forces that cause these incredible events.

Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault

Earthquake Storms: The Fascinating History and Volatile Future of the San Andreas Fault
by John Dvorak (Author)


The lives of millions will be changed after it breaks, and yet so few people understand it, or even realize it runs through their backyard. Dvorak reveals the San Andreas Fault’s fascinating history—and it’s volatile future.It is a prominent geological feature that is almost impossible to see unless you know where to look. Hundreds of thousands of people drive across it every day. The San Andreas Fault is everywhere, and primed for a colossal quake. For decades, scientists have warned that such a sudden shifting of the Earth’s crust is inevitable. In fact, it is a geologic necessity.The San Andreas fault runs almost the entire length of California, from the redwood forest to the east edge of the Salton Sea. Along the way, it passes through two of the largest urban areas of the...

Earthquakes (reillustrated) (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

Earthquakes (reillustrated) (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
by Franklyn M. Branley (Author), Megan Lloyd (Illustrator)


Read and find out about one of nature's most mysterious forces—the earthquake. Some earthquakes are so small that you don't even feel them, while others can make even big buildings shake! Learn why earthquakes happen, where they are most likely to occur, and what to do if one happens near you.

Jump into Science: Earthquakes

Jump into Science: Earthquakes
by Ellen J. Prager (Author), Susan Greenstein (Illustrator)


What causes earthquakes? Where do they happen most? What should you do if you feel the earth shake? Just follow the friendly crow-in-the-know for all the answers!

National Geographic supports K-12 educators with ELA Common Core Resources.
Visit www.natgeoed.org/commoncore for more information. 

Disaster Strikes #1: Earthquake Shock

Disaster Strikes #1: Earthquake Shock
by Marlane Kennedy (Author)


When disaster strikes, the only thing you can count on is yourself!

It had seemed like the perfect California day. But as Joey Flores walked home from the skate park with his friends, the ground began to tremble, and Joey knew they were headed for trouble....

The earthquake that followed devastated their neighborhood, collapsing a nearby overpass with Joey and Fiona on one side and Kevin and Dylan on the other. Now Joey and his friends must rescue each other, endure the aftershocks, and find a new way home as the earth cracks beneath their feet.

If You Lived At The Time Of The Great San Francisco Earthquake

If You Lived At The Time Of The Great San Francisco Earthquake
by Ellen Levine (Author), Pat Grant (Illustrator)




If you lived at the time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
--What things in your house would you try to save?
--How would you carry the things you saved?
--Where would you live if your house was destroyed?

This book takes you to San Francisco, California, shortly before, during, and after April 18, 1906.


Earthquake! (Natural Disasters)

Earthquake! (Natural Disasters)
by Marion Dane Bauer (Author), John Wallace (Illustrator)


What causes an earthquake is a mystery -- until you go deep beneath the Earth's surface. Read on to find out what causes the incredibly destructive natural disaster -- the earthquake!

© 2014 BrightSurf.com