Reply to ‘Using remote sensing to assess the protective role of coastal woody vegetation against tsunami waves’

Kerr, Alexander M., Baird, Andrew, Bhalla, Ravi S. , and Srinivas, V. (2009) Reply to ‘Using remote sensing to assess the protective role of coastal woody vegetation against tsunami waves’. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 30 (14). - .

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In a recent paper in the International Journal of Remote Sensing, Olwig et al. (2007) present a comprehensive, geographic information system (GIS)-based description of the spatial distribution of damage from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami relative to coastal vegetation in Tamil Nadu, India, and conclude that ‘…mangrove forests and coastal shelterbelts provided protection from the tsunami.’ In this comment, we demonstrate that the complex spatial pattern of damage makes their observational approach unable to substantiate this claim. Contrary to the authors’ assertions, other factors known to affect tsunami inundation, such as elevation, near-shore bathymetry and patterns of land use, are shown to vary across their study site so as to create the appearance of a mitigating effect by vegetation on inundation and damage. We show that without explicitly quantifying and controlling for these confounding factors, it cannot be ascertained, even in principle, whether vegetation did ameliorate tsunami damage. We conclude with a call for analyses that can simultaneously assess the role of the discernibly manifold factors generating the pattern of inundation and damage of the 2004 tsunami.

Item ID: 10722
Item Type: Article (Commentary)
ISSN: 1366-5901
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2010 07:06
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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