3 years ago

Drivers of shoreline change in atoll reef islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia

This paper increases by around 30% the sample of atoll reef islands studied from a shoreline change perspective, and covers an under-studied geographical area, i.e. the French Tuamotu Archipelago. It brings new irrefutable evidences on the persistence of reef islands over the last decades, as 77% of the 111 study islands exhibited areal stability while 15% and 8% showed expansion and contraction, respectively. This paper also addresses a key research gap by interpreting the major local drivers controlling recent shoreline and island change, i.e. tropical cyclones and seasonal swells, sediment supply by coral reefs and human activities. The 1983 tropical cyclones had contrasting impacts, depending on the shoreline indicator considered. While they generally caused a marked retreat of the stability line, the base of the beach advanced at some locations, as a result of either sediment reworking or fresh sediment inputs. The post-cyclone fair weather period was characterised by reversed trends indicating island morphological readjustment. Cyclonic waves contributed to island upwards growth, which reached up to 1m in places, through the transfer of sediments up onto the island surface. However, the steep outer slopes of atolls limited sediment transfers to the reef flat and island system. We found that 57% of the study islands are disturbed by human activities, including ‘rural’ and uninhabited islands. Twenty-six percent of these islands have lost the capacity to respond to ocean-climate related pressures, including the ‘capital’ islands concentrating atolls' population, infrastructures and economic activities, which is preoccupying under climate change.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0921818116305598

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