21 Oct 2013

More research needed on sea level rise impact on Pacific atolls

7:01 pm on 21 October 2013

A New Zealand academic says more research is needed to monitor the Pacific's changing shorelines as each island responds differently to rising sea levels.

Dr Murray Ford, from the University of Auckland's School of Environment, used old photos from World War II and more recent satellite images to study the shoreline of Wotje Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

He says the atoll's shoreline has mostly increased since 1945 but this does not mean rising sea levels are not a threat.

"This research kind of illustrates the complexity of these islands and how little we understand about the dynamics and the changes to the island shorelines. Wotje has generally grown, although there's some evidence, that needs to be explored in more depth, to suggest that since 2004 there's possibly been a shift towards more erosion."

Murray Ford says this research is important for underpinning future village developments like schools so they can be shifted away from erosion prone areas.