Scientists: Coral reefs spared worst of tsunami's effects

Doctor Gregory Stone was on a diving expedition off Fiji on December 26, 2004, when the first sketchy reports reached his ship about the undersea earthquake that had spawned a catastrophic &to=' target=_blank>tsunami in South Asia. Amid his horror over the human toll, another thought quickly formed in the scientist's mind: What would be the impact of this natural disaster on the region's stunningly beautiful and ecologically critical coral reefs?

Several months later Stone, vice president of global marine programs for the New England Aquarium, traveled with a team to the Thai resort island of Phuket. Over the next two weeks, the team made approximately 500 dives at 56 sites, surveying the reefs to determine how badly they had been damaged and how long they might take to recover.

They found destruction, but also hope.

"In the fullness of time, the tsunami was just another bad day in the life of the coral reef. It will recover," said Stone, who spoke to The Associated Press from New Zealand, site of his latest expedition.

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