May 16, 2016

Interactions between sea-level rise and wave exposure on reef island dynamics in the Solomon Islands

Simon Albert, Javier X Leon, Alistair R Grinham, John A Church, Badin R Gibbes and Colin D Woodroffe
Environmental Research Letters
  • States that sea-level rise has been predicted to cause widespread erosion and inundation of low-lying atolls in the central Pacific
  • States that however, the limited research on reef islands in the western Pacific indicates the majority of shoreline changes and inundation to date result from extreme events, seawalls and inappropriate development rather than sea-level rise alone
  • Presents the first analysis of coastal dynamics from a sea-level rise hotspot in the Solomon Islands
  • Uses time series aerial and satellite imagery from 1947 to 2014 of 33 islands, along with historical insight from local knowledge, to identify five vegetated reef islands that have vanished over this time period and a further six islands experiencing severe shoreline recession
  • Finds that shoreline recession at two sites has destroyed villages that have existed since at least 1935, leading to community relocations
  • Results show that rates of shoreline recession are substantially higher in areas exposed to high wave energy, indicating a synergistic interaction between sea-level rise and waves