Close  

Some reef islands resilient to climate change – study

/ 05:14 PM July 16, 2019

Wellington, New Zealand — The Pacific’s low-lying reef islands are likely to change shape in response to climate change, rather than simply sinking beneath rising seas and becoming uninhabitable as previously assumed, new research has found.

Atoll nations such as Tuvalu, Tokelau, and Kiribati lie only a few meters above sea level and are considered the world’s most vulnerable to global warming, with fears their populations will become climate refugees as waters rise.

ADVERTISEMENT

But a study published this week found that such islands “morphodynamically respond” to the environment because they are composed of the skeletal remains of tiny reef-dwelling organisms, rather than solid rock.

RELATED TOPICS

FEATURED STORIES

The researchers said evidence that such islands slowly change like shifting sands had profound implications for climate change planning in affected nations.

Co-author Murray Ford of Auckland University said low-lying reef islands appeared more resilient than previously thought.

“The effects on individual islands will vary so that while some areas may become uninhabitable, (other) areas will keep pace with rising seas,” he said.

“It will be up to governments and communities to decide how to respond over time, but we think this study highlights the fact that nature provides a template for adaptation and island communities may need to adapt too,” he added.

The study, conducted by researchers from New Zealand, Britain, and Canada, was published by the Geological Society of America this week.

Some reef islands resilient to climate change – study

ATOLL NATION Aerial view of Tuvalu. INQUIRER.net STOCK IMAGE

The researchers created a 1:50 scale model of Tuvalu’s Fatato Island in a 20-meter (66 foot) flume tank to test the impact of rising seas and increasing storm surges caused by climate change.

They found the crest of the island became higher and the entire landmass shifted across the underlying reef.

ADVERTISEMENT

“These insights highlight an urgent need to incorporate island morphological dynamics into reassessments of future wave-driven flood risk projections for reef islands,” the researchers said.

The same team last year used historical aerial photographs to show that the land area of Tuvalu’s nine atolls and 101 reef islands has increased by 2.9 percent between 1971 and 2014.

The concept of climate change forcing Pacific islanders from their homes is a sensitive issue in atoll nations.

New Zealand’s progressive government entered office in 2017 with a policy of creating a world-first visa that recognized climate change refugees fleeing their swamped homelands.

But it quietly shelved the idea last year after receiving feedback from islanders, who wanted relief efforts to concentrate on saving their homes rather than easing access to new ones elsewhere.

The 18-member Pacific Islands Forum will hold its annual summit in Tuvalu next month, with climate change expected to again top the agenda. /kga

TOPICS: atoll nations, Climate, Climate change, Environment, Geological Society of America, Geology, Global warming, International news, island, morphodynamically respond, New Zealand, News, Pacific, Pacific Island Forum, reef, World, World News
Read Next
LATEST STORIES
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
lifestyle

PH rep to 2019 Mrs. Globe pageant crowned

October 14, 2019 01:28 AM

entertainment

Barbie not yet ready for daring roles

October 14, 2019 12:06 AM

entertainment

Piolo owes Charo for foray into producing

October 14, 2019 12:02 AM



© Copyright 1997-2019 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.