Earthquakes are one of the most devastating natural disasters there are, just for the sheer fact that they are one of the hardest to avoid, cause an absurd amount of damage, and can have aftershocks that come with the earthquake itself. About two week ago, Nepal was struck by a major earthquake that ranked 7.8 on the Richter scale. The Richter scale is a scale that assigns a magnitude number to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale (meaning that an increase in 1 number from 5 to 6 is actually an increase in 10 for destructive damage), which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude. The Richter scale uses a seismometer to measure the scale that a current earthquake unleashed.
Earthquakes can cause devastating aftershocks and undersea earthquakes can cause tsunamis. Now you may be thinking, “That’s interesting and all, but how does this relate to biology?” Well natural disasters in general relate to biology a great deal, but the Nepal earthquake was the most recent one and relates pretty closely to our latest unit, Ecology. Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and their physical surroundings. Earthquakes are usually caused when rock underground suddenly breaks along a fault. This sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake. Terrestrial earthquakes can cause mountains to rise, forests to fall, and new landmarks to form. Undersea earthquakes can cause trenches to form and also may cause underwater volcanoes to erupt, which in turn can cause new islands to form. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by tectonic plates coming together underwater, which caused volcanoes to form underwater, these volcanoes force magma to erupt underwater, which forms a hot spot, which is how the Hawaiian Islands were created. Earthquakes can greatly alter the environment, sometimes destroying many vital habitats for specific organisms. After the environment has been ravaged by an earthquake, organisms will have to adapt to the new losses and possible additions to their physical surroundings. New habitats could be formed, and this could actually increase the genetic diversity, because certain species could change the way they act, what they consume, and possibly even their own body structure to adapt to what the earthquake did to their environment. Earthquakes (as well as a plethora of other natural disasters), can change the population because of how much flora and fauna they can destroy, but also by the fact that they can change how a population could grow. They can also cause some species to die off completely from their part of an environment being destroyed. They can cause increased competition between certain species or between species within themselves because of how much earthquakes can limit certain resources available to the animals. Earthquakes can also pollute water supplies and completely shut down an environment with ease, based on how easily they can destroy. Overall, earthquakes (as well as other natural disasters) can cause great issues for everything, but they can also have the potential to change environments in good ways and cause an increase in genetic diversity.