How often are new habitable islands formed

Atoll islands in times of rising sea levels

Sinking islands have become a symbol of climate change due to media attention. It is true that many experts who deal with this topic in one way or another consider the relocation of entire atoll states to the mainland to be inevitable. This would mean that the affected islanders not only lose their home, but also their thousands of years old culture.

Such dire prospects, however, are being tempered - at least in part - by recent research. Reconstructions of the island area based on aerial and satellite images over the past decades show that the coastlines of the atoll islands examined are highly dynamic. While coastal erosion can certainly occur on the side of the islands facing the ocean, the side facing the lagoon continues to expand at the same time. The coastal dynamics can therefore lead to islands migrating on the reef platform - without inevitably losing land.

Whether this will also be the case in the future depends on a large number of factors. The speed of local sea level rise, the population density and the state of the reef ecosystem surrounding atoll islands will be of particular importance. Healthy reefs can grow as the sea level rises, dampening the energy of the waves before they hit the islands and remove the coastal sand. A scientific focus on the interactions between human and natural influences will help us understand how these habitats will develop in the future.

The content and opinions of the authors published here do not necessarily correspond to the opinion of the Science Year 2016 * 17 - Seas and Oceans.