28 May 2015

Pacific atolls changing, not sinking - academic

7:47 am on 28 May 2015

The author of a recent report which says atolls like those in Tuvalu are growing, not sinking says the research is being misrepresented.

The Changing Waves and Coasts in the Pacific report which studied over a hundred years of images of Funafuti atoll in Tuvalu found huge changes in the shape and form of the island.

The head of Auckland University's School of Environment, Paul Kench, says the found an overall increase in island area in that time despite a sea level rise of 30 centimetres.

Professor Kench says the report highlights a more complex challenge for Pacific atolls than simply sinking.

"There will be islands for them to live on in the future but they will have changed. And there is a real urgency to expand this work and do sort of national assessments for each of these island countries and really take a serious look at how we integrate this information to help these countries with their future planning and adaptation strategies."

Figure 2. Changes in planform characteristics of selected reef islands in Funafuti

Changing shapes of Tuvalu atolls Photo: Dr Paul Kench - Auckland University