Four years after the tsunami that devastated coastal regions throughout the Indian Ocean, a team of scientists, from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), has reported a rapid recovery of coral reefs in areas of Indonesia.
The WCS team, working in conjunction with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARCCoERS) along with government, community and non-government partners, has documented high densities of "baby corals" in areas that were severely impacted by the tsunami.
The team, which has surveyed the region's coral reefs since the December 26, 2004 tsunami, looked at 60 sites along 800 kilometers (497 miles) of coastline in Aceh, Indonesia.
The researchers attribute the recovery to natural colonization by resilient coral species, along with the reduction of destructive fishing practices by local communities.
"On the 4th anniversary of the tsunami, this is a great story of ecosystem resilience and recovery," said Dr. Stuart Campbell, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia Marine Program.
"Our scientific monitoring is showing rapid growth of young corals in areas where the tsunami caused damage, and also the return of new generations of corals in areas previously damaged by destructive fishing," he added.
"These findings provide new insights into coral recovery processes that can help us manage coral reefs in the face of climate change," he further added.
According to WCS, healthy coral reefs are economic engines for Acehnese communities, supplying commercially valuable food fish as well as tourism dollars from recreational diving.
"The recovery, which is in part due to improved management and the direct assistance of local people, gives enormous hope that coral reefs in this remote region can return to their previous condition and provide local communities with the resources they need to prosper," said Dr. Campbell.
"The recovery process will be enhanced by management that encourages sustainable uses of these ecosystems and the protection of critical habitats and species to help this process," he added.