IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/wly/wirecc/v6y2015i5p445-463.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Destruction or persistence of coral atoll islands in the face of 20th and 21st century sea‐level rise?

Author

Listed:
  • Roger McLean
  • Paul Kench

Abstract

The future of low‐lying reef islands has been the subject of international concern, scientific debate, and media interest in the last decade. As a result of sea‐level rise, atoll islands are expected to become increasingly unstable and to be susceptible to potential depopulation by the end of the 21st century. Some have suggested that sea‐level rise has already resulted in widespread erosion and inundation of atoll islands. Here, we analyze the physical changes in over 200 islands on 12 atolls in the central and western Pacific in the past few decades when sea level in the region increased at rates three to four times the global average. Results show little evidence of heightened erosion or reduction in island size. Instead island shores have adjusted their position and morphology in response to human impacts such as seawall construction and to variations in climate–ocean processes. These changes are reviewed and the role of sea‐level rise is evaluated. The implications of this analysis are addressed in two parts. First, we consider the proposition that future sea‐level rise will destabilize atoll islands to such an extent that their inhabitants will be forced to migrate offshore. And second, we identify a series of new challenges relating to risk reduction and adaptation policy for atoll island governments, international agencies, and island communities. These require a substantial shift away from the present adaptation paradigm of external migration and focus on the persistence of atoll islands and in‐country solutions. WIREs Clim Change 2015, 6:445–463. doi: 10.1002/wcc.350 This article is categorized under: Paleoclimates and Current Trends > Earth System Behavior Assessing Impacts of Climate Change > Evaluating Future Impacts of Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Learning from Cases and Analogies

Suggested Citation

  • Roger McLean & Paul Kench, 2015. "Destruction or persistence of coral atoll islands in the face of 20th and 21st century sea‐level rise?," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 6(5), pages 445-463, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:wirecc:v:6:y:2015:i:5:p:445-463
    DOI: 10.1002/wcc.350
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.350
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1002/wcc.350?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wly:wirecc:v:6:y:2015:i:5:p:445-463. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://doi.org/10.1002/(ISSN)1757-7799 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Wiley Content Delivery (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://doi.org/10.1002/(ISSN)1757-7799 .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.