Atoll island vulnerability to flooding and inundation revealed by historical reconstruction

Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu

Hiroya Yamano, Hajime Kayanne, Toru Yamaguchi, Yuji Kuwahara, Hiromune Yokoki, Hiroto Shimazaki, Masashi Chikamori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

89 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The reef islands formed on coral atolls are generally small, low, and flat, with elevations of only a few meters. These islands are thus highly vulnerable to elevated sea levels caused by extreme events and global warming. Such vulnerability was recently evidenced at Fongafale Islet, the capital of Tuvalu, when it flooded during accelerated spring high tides possibly related to sea level rise caused by global warming. Many factors, not only environmental but also economic and social, determine the vulnerability of an island to sea level rise. In this study, we used data spanning 108 yrs to reconstruct changes in topography, land use/cover, population, and the distribution of buildings at Fongafale Islet. The results indicate that the vulnerability of Fongafale Islet relates to its original landform characteristics: the central part of the island was formerly dominated by swampland that flooded at high tides. Fongafale Islet experienced greater population in-migration and centralization beginning in the 1970s following the independence of Tuvalu and Kiribati. Migrants were also responding to declines in overseas mining operations and limited options for paid employment. As the population increased, construction took place in vulnerable swampland areas. Our results clearly demonstrate that examinations of global environmental issues should focus on characteristics specific to the region of interest. These characteristics should be specified using historical reconstruction to understand and address the vulnerability of an area to global environmental changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-416
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Volume57
Issue number3-4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007 Jun

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atoll
vulnerability
flooding
global warming
tide
centralization
extreme event
environmental issue
landform
coral
environmental change
reef
topography
sea level
land use
economics
sea level rise

Keywords

  • human settlement
  • reef island
  • sea-level rise
  • Tuvalu
  • vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

Cite this

Atoll island vulnerability to flooding and inundation revealed by historical reconstruction : Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu. / Yamano, Hiroya; Kayanne, Hajime; Yamaguchi, Toru; Kuwahara, Yuji; Yokoki, Hiromune; Shimazaki, Hiroto; Chikamori, Masashi.

In: Global and Planetary Change, Vol. 57, No. 3-4, 06.2007, p. 407-416.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Yamano, Hiroya ; Kayanne, Hajime ; Yamaguchi, Toru ; Kuwahara, Yuji ; Yokoki, Hiromune ; Shimazaki, Hiroto ; Chikamori, Masashi. / Atoll island vulnerability to flooding and inundation revealed by historical reconstruction : Fongafale Islet, Funafuti Atoll, Tuvalu. In: Global and Planetary Change. 2007 ; Vol. 57, No. 3-4. pp. 407-416.
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