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Chile quake, tsunami altered ecosystems dramatically by Charles Q. Choi May 07,2012   |  Source: OurAmazingPlanet

The earthquake and tsunami that rocked Chile in 2010 unleashed substantial and surprising changes on ecosystems there, yielding insights on how these natural disasters can affect life and how sea level rise might affect the world, researchers say.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile struck off an area of the coast where 80 percent of the population lives. The massive quake triggered a tsunami reaching about 30 feet (10 meters) high that wreaked havoc on coastal communities : It killed more than 500 people, injured about 12,000 and damaged or destroyed at least 370,000 houses.

It makes sense that such earthshaking catastrophes would have drastic consequences on ecosystems in the affected areas. However, if researchers lack enough data about the environment before a disaster strikes, as is usually the case, it can be difficult to decipher these effects. With the 2010 Chile quake, scientists were able to conduct an unprecedented report of its ecological implications based on data collected on coastal ecosystems shortly before and up to 10 months after the event.

The sandy beaches of Chile apparently experienced significant and lasting changes because of the earthquake and tsunami. The responses of ecosystems there depended strongly on the amount of land level


© 2012 msnbc.com

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