Tsunami Impact Assessment on Natural Eco-Systems

The tsunami that impacted Sri Lanka on 26th December 2004 caused massive loss of human lives and extensive damage to our infrastructure. But what were its effects on natural eco-systems? Are natural systems resilient enough to take it in their stride? Can tsunamis be an important force in shaping coastal eco-systems? These are some of the questions we want to answer through our tsunami project.

The tsunamis that impacted the shores of Sri Lanka on the 26th of December 2004, caused unprecedented loss of human lives and property along the coast. As most other Sri Lankans, we at CCR also played an active role in providing assistance to those affected, helping in medical camps and delivering medicines and supplies. Once the immediate humanitarian problems were under control and the government and aid organizations stepped up to the relief effort, we turned our attention to the impact of the tsunamis on natural eco-systems.

One of the main areas impacted by the tsunamis was the Yala National Park, which is also our primary study area for elephant conservation work. Therefore, we undertook to conduct an assessment of the tsunami impact in this area.

The Yala National Park is situated on the south-east corner of Sri Lanka and has a coastal boundary of approximately 60 km. It is divided into Blocks I-V, Strict Nature Reserve and Yala-East. The coastal boundary is approximately 15 km in Block I, 25 km in Block II and 20 km in Yala-East. We undertook to survey the area of impact and to set up a long term study of how the eco-system responds to the disturbance created by the tsunami.

Fernando P, Wikramanayake ED & Pastorini J (2006) Impact of tsunami on terrestrial ecosystems of Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Current Science 90:1531-1534.