New evidence suggests small Pacific atolls may be more resilient in the face of rising sea levels than first thought.
The University of Auckland's Professor Paul Kench, says the latest study has been looking at how islands evolved in the past when sea levels were rising.
Despite being some of the most vulnerable places on Earth, many of the islands followed in the research have remained stable in size, or have grown larger.
Professor Kench predicts that in the future there will still be islands in areas such as the Marshall Islands, but they will change in size and shape.
"Rather than being passive lumps of rock that will be swamped by rising seas and eroded by storms, the islands are dynamic structures that can move and even grow in response to changing seas," he told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme.
That is not to say that these tiny nations won't face significant environmental challenges.
Built of sand and shingle and lying just 1-3 metres above the current sea level, coral reef islands in the central Pacific and Indian Oceans are considered among the most vulnerable places on Earth.
And the changes that take place may affect fresh water supplies and agriculture, potentially making life on these islands much more difficult than it is today.
Professor Kench found that Tuvalu's Funafuti Atoll islands, in the central Pacific either remained stable in size or grew larger over the past few decades, in spite of rising sea levels.
And islands at Nadikdik Atoll, in Marshall Islands, have been rebuilt over the past century despite being destroyed by a typhoon in 1905.