Immediate Ecological Impacts of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake Tsunami on Intertidal Flat Communities

Jotaro Urabe, Takao Suzuki, Tatsuki Nishita, Wataru Makino

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    55 Citations (Scopus)


    Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, a large tsunami developed and struck the Pacific coast of eastern Japan. To assess the immediate impacts of the tsunami on coastal communities, changes in taxon composition and richness of macrobenthic animals before and after the tsunami were examined at nine intertidal flats in Sendai Bay and the Sanriku Ria coast. The results showed that 30-80% of taxa indigenously inhabiting intertidal flats disappeared after the tsunami. Among animal types, endobenthic and sessile epibenthic animals were more vulnerable to the tsunami than mobile epibenthic animals like shore crabs and snails. For all the intertidal flats examined, animals that were originally dwellers in lower tidal zones and not recorded before the tsunami were also found right after the tsunami, indicating that the tsunami not only took away many benthic taxa from the intertidal flats but also brought in some taxa from elsewhere. However, overall changes in taxon community composition were greater for intertidal flats that experienced larger inundation heights. These results showed that the ecological impacts of the tsunami were proportional to the physical impacts as gauged by wave height and that mobile epibenthic animals were less vulnerable to the tsunami.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere62779
    JournalPloS one
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2013 May 1

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
    • General


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