Stimulus details: tropical storms

impact chain for tropical coastal areas / storms (click nodes to view details):
Tropical storms (e.g., cyclones, hurricanes and typhoons) first have direct impacts on both ecosystems and people, followed by cascading effects. The physical force of hurricanes, for example, can directly degrade and kill mangroves. By changing the space available to different species, hurricanes can also reset succession and thus alter species composition.[22] Storms influence mangrove sediment elevation through soil erosion, soil deposition, peat collapse and soil compression.[13] However, an increase in soil elevation can have a positive impact on mangrove ecosystems as it can counterbalance the effects of relative SLR.

Positive impacts can occur for coral reefs as well. At broad spatial scales, tropical cyclones can cool the upper ocean, which reduces thermal stress for bleached corals and accelerates their recovery. Moderate storms can transfer sediment particles that uplift reef layers without breaking the corals[23] and can aid larvae dispersal from and onto reefs. Strong storms, however, induce physical damage through breakage and dislodgement, adversely affect coral recruitment and reduce salinity levels to points that can be lethal.[24] They also cause large sediment blowouts that can clear seagrass meadows, leading to long-term effects such as the colonisation of the cleared space by macroalgae.[25]

Again, degradation and losses in ecosystems affect coastal communities through the loss of ecosystem services. The loss of storm-protection services of mangroves, for example, renders people progressively more vulnerable to climate stressors. By contrast, settlements protected by mangrove ecosystems have been shown to suffer significantly less damage during past cyclone events than unprotected ones.[26, 27]

As climate change progresses, tropical storms are predicted to become more intense and frequent. In the absence of coastal protection, direct impacts such as coastal flooding, erosion and beach degradation will become even more severe, as will the loss of life, property and livelihoods. In addition to ecosystem conservation activities, actions must be taken to minimise disaster risk. Such actions include constructing or modernising early warning systems, developing shelters and evacuation plans, constructing coastal embankments, raising awareness at the community level, mapping high-risk areas, and establishing and enforcing appropriate building codes.[28]


[13]    Gilman, E. L., Ellison, J., Duke, N. C., Field, C., 2008. Threats to mangroves from climate change and adaptation options: a review. Aquatic Botany 89, 237-250.

[22]    Piou, C., Feller, I. C., Berger, U., Chi, F., 2006. Zonation patterns of Belizean offshore mangrove forests 41 years after a catastrophic hurricane. Biotropica 38, 365-374.

[23]    Lugo-Fernandez, A., Gravois, M., 2010. Understanding impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes on submerged bank reefs and coral communities in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Continental Shelf Research 30, 1226-1240.

[24]    Van Woesik, R., 1994. Contemporary disturbances to coral communities of the Great Barrier Reef. Journal of Coastal Research 12, 233-252.

[25]    Van Tussenbroek, B. I., Barba Santos, M. G., Van Dijk, J. K., Sanabria Alcaraz, S. M., Téllez Calderón, M. L., 2008. Selective elimination of rooted plants from a tropical seagrass bed in a back-reef lagoon: a hypothesis tested by Hurricane Wilma (2005). Journal of Coastal Research 24, 278-281.

[26]    Badola, R., Hussain, S., 2005. Valuing ecosystem functions: an empirical study on the storm protection function of Bhitarkanika mangrove ecosystem, India. Environmental Conservation 32, 85-92.

[27]    Das, S., Vincent, J. R., 2009. Mangroves protected villages and reduced death toll during Indian super cyclone. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, 7357-7360.

[28]    Haque, U., Hashizume, M., Kolivras, K. N., Overgaard, H. J., Das, B., Yamamoto, T., 2012. Reduced death rates from cyclones in Bangladesh: what more needs to be done? Bulletin of the World Health Organization 90, 150-156.
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