Biggest coral death surveyed, as reported in Carib Journal, 11 April 2007 and ABC News 13 April 2007. In March 2005, an earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia, raised the island of Simeulue by 1.2 m (3 ft 11 ins), and lifted most of the surrounding coral reef out of sea. Scientists have now completed a survey of the uplifted reef and describe it as the “greatest mass death of corals ever recorded”. This has given scientists a unique opportunity to study coral death and recovery. Andrew Baird, a scientist involved in the work observed: “Amazingly, the uplifted corals are so well preserved we could still identify each species, despite these colonies having been exposed for two years. Some species suffered up to 100 percent loss at some sites, and different species now dominate the shallow reef.” He went on to explain, “This is a unique opportunity to document a process that occurs maybe once a century and promises to provide new insights into coral recovery processes that until now we could only explore on fossil reefs.” The corals are now re-growing around the newly created shoreline, and according to Stuart Campbell of the Wildlife Conservation Society – Indonesia Marine Program, “At many sites, the worst affected species are beginning to re-colonize the shallow reef areas. The reefs appear to be returning to what they looked like before the earthquake, although the process may take many years.”


Editorial Comment: A similar uplift of coral occurred with the recent earthquake near the Solomon Islands, where a whole island was suddenly lifted over 1 metre (3’) out of the sea bringing its coral reef with it. The corals rapidly died and it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the coral reef to re-form around the island. This editor has worked on Caribbean coral reefs that have been uplifted over 10 metres, and yet the living reefs had re-established very well. These events, along with the evidence from fossil corals remind us that the history of the world is not one of slow growth and slow burial. Fossil corals show evidence of rapid catastrophic processes, and the rapid re-growth observed in living corals reminds us that coral reefs do not take millions of years to form or reform. In fact the evidence from Australia after the crown of thorns destruction of the Great Barrier Reef shows that corals grow exceedingly rapidly when there is no competition from pre-existing corals, and slow down as the reef is repopulated. (Ref. ecology, environment, disaster, catastrophism)

Evidence News 24th April 2007