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USGS Open-File Report 2013-1170 and CGS Special Report 229, Chapter G

SAFRR Tsunami Scenario—Impacts on California Ecosystems, Species, Marine Natural Resources, and Fisheries

By Deborah Brosnan, Anne Wein, and Rick Wilson

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (14.3 MB) Abstract

We evaluate the effects of the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario on California’s ecosystems, species, natural resources, and fisheries. We discuss mitigation and preparedness approaches that can be useful in Tsunami planning. The chapter provides an introduction to the role of ecosystems and natural resources in tsunami events (Section 1). A separate section focuses on specific impacts of the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario on California’s ecosystems and endangered species (Section 2). A section on commercial fisheries and the fishing fleet (Section 3) documents the plausible effects on California’s commercial fishery resources, fishing fleets, and communities. Sections 2 and 3 each include practical preparedness options for communities and suggestions on information needs or research.

Our evaluation indicates that many low-lying coastal habitats, including beaches, marshes and sloughs, rivers and waterways connected to the sea, as well as nearshore submarine habitats will be damaged by the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario. Beach erosion and complex or high volumes of tsunami-generated debris would pose major challenges for ecological communities. Several endangered species and protected areas are at risk. Commercial fisheries and fishing fleets will be affected directly by the tsunami and indirectly by dependencies on infrastructure that is damaged. There is evidence that in some areas intact ecosystems, notably sand dunes, will act as natural defenses against the tsunami waves. However, ecosystems do not provide blanket protection against tsunami surge. The consequences of ecological and natural resource damage are estimated in the millions of dollars. These costs are driven partly by the loss of ecosystem services, as well as cumulative and follow-on impacts where, for example, increased erosion during the tsunami can in turn lead to subsequent damage and loss to coastal properties. Recovery of ecosystems, natural resources and fisheries is likely to be lengthy and expensive. Preparedness is key to enhancing resilience to ecological impacts.

First posted July 28, 2014

For additional information, contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
Science Application for Risk Reduction (SAFRR)

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Suggested citation:

Brosnan, D., Wein, A., and Wilson, R., 2014, SAFRR tsunami scenario—Impacts on California ecosystems, species, marine natural resources, and fisheries, chap. G in Ross, S.L., and Jones, L.M., eds., The SAFRR (Science Application for Risk Reduction) tsunami scenario: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1170-G, 60 p.,

ISSN 2331-1258 (online)


Section 1. California’s Coastal and Marine Ecosystems, Natural Resources, and Endangered Species in the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario: Ecological Factors Overview

Section 2. Impacts of SAFRR Tsunami Scenario on California’s Coastal and Marine Habitats, Resources and Endangered Species

Section 3. Tsunami Impacts on the Commercial Fisheries and Fishing Fleet in San Pedro Bay, Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach in the SAFRR Tsunami Scenario

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