Please note that this page is no longer being updated and it is available for historical reference only

Forests and tsunamis

Many of the rural communities adversely affected by the tsunami depend on mangroves and other coastal forests and trees for their livelihoods. Trees and forests contribute directly by providing wood and non-wood forest products - including timber, poles, fuelwood and thatch for houses - and indirectly through the role mangroves play in the marine food web and by providing spawning grounds and shelter for fish and shellfish.

The extent of the damage to mangroves and other coastal forests and trees by the tsunami is still not clear and it may take some time before the final impacts are known, since changes in topography, soil salinity and freshwater in-flow from upstream may adversely affect the forests in the longer term.

Much of the infrastructure destroyed by the tsunami was made of wood, including piers, bridges, boats, houses and other buildings, and many of the communities affected by the tsunami rely on fuelwood for heating and cooking. This is likely to put further pressure on the remaining forests, some of which were reported to have helped reduce the loss of lives and the damage caused by the tsunami.

Meeting the immediate needs for wood, restoring livelihoods and rehabilitating damaged forests are thus among some of the priority actions needed, followed by more long-term strategies.

FAO is currently analysing available information on the damage caused, the immediate needs for wood, and the role mangroves and other coastal forests played in mitigating the impacts of the tsunami. A plan for a more in-depth assessment of these aspects and for support to countries in their reconstruction efforts has been developed. The goal is to assist countries in the region to meet their immediate needs and to prepare and implement strategies for restoring livelihoods and meeting the longer-term forestry-related needs within an integrated coastal management programme.

This Web site aims to provide information on the forestry-related aspects of the tsunami and to provide advice and assistance to those involved in the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts.