The tsunamis that hit southern Asia on Boxing Day may have caused so much damage to coral reefs that they could take centuries to recover, experts said today.
Fish populations and habitats in both reef and mangrove areas are thought to have suffered dramatically in the devastating tsunamis which have now killed well over 100,000 people.
Ketut Sarjana Putra, the director of Conservation International told ABC News that while mangroves have been affected, reefs took the brunt of the wave impacts:
\"It will take a long time to recover. The coral reef system might be totally destroyed. It will take hundreds of years to grow back.\"
Besides the massive number of fish likely to have been either killed or displaced by the waves, it is also likely that coral reefs have been smashed to pieces.
With fewer adult corals present, it could take longer for them to reproduce, meaning that the reef takes many years to return to its previous state.
The levels of silt and organic matter that the tsunami have stirred up are also of concern to marine experts.
The Los Angeles Tribune reports that Staghorn Acropora on Phuket beach were seriously affected by the tsunami and dead corals could be seen piled up on the shoreline.
Previous tsunamis in the Pacific side of Indonesia in the early nineties saw reefs recover within a few years, but experts reckon the scale of the recent disaster could see recovery times of decades or centuries.