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Coastal flooding could save atoll islands from rising seas – but only if their reefs remain healthy

By Gerd Masselink, Professor of Coastal Geomorphology, University of Plymouth
Paul Simon Kench, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University
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Communities living on coral atoll islands, which rarely rise more than four metres above the surface of the sea, face a strange paradox.

On the one hand, these islands are among the most sensitive to the effects of climate change, with sea-level rise and potentially increasing storminess expected to make coastal flooding events more frequent and intense. On the other hand, when waves overwash such islands during extreme weather events, new sediment from their surrounding coral reefs is typically deposited on the island, increasing its elevation.

So while the process of…

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