The islands rise at the same time as the rising waters
The small Pacific islands would be more resilient than scientists had previously thought.
This is what has just been shown in a study published on July 5 in the journal Geology. Researchers focused on islands such as Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati, which are largely threatened by rising water levels and climate disasters. These piles of sand barely exceed the level of the ocean. The researchers used a reduced model.
“The study has simulated higher sea levels and waves caused by storms up to four meters in height,” said a note from researchers at the University of Auckland School of Environment who participated in the study. The experiment took place in a 20 meter long canal at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom.
They discovered that the highest point of their artificial island had gained altitude and that the rest had moved on the underlying coral reef. An analysis that runs counter to the widely accepted scientific thesis that atolls, these ring-shaped coral reef islands, would be drowned out if an ocean rise occurred.
Results to qualify
“The islands of the atolls are not inert on the reef, the gravel and the sand that constitute it are moving on the coral reef itself, so that the land changes according to the environmental conditions,” notes Megan Tuck, author main part of the study.
The researchers have some reservations about their results because it is a simulation on a reduced model and because some elements, like the structure of the island or the vegetation, were not taken into account in the experimentation.
But geomorphologist Murray Ford, co-author of the study, says: “The effects on the various islands will vary so that, even if some areas become uninhabitable, others will adapt to the rising waters. the communities to decide what to do, but we think this study highlights the fact that nature provides an adaptation model and that island communities may need to be inspired by it. “