Many fear that the little islands around the Pacific and the Caribbean could disappear as sea levels rise, but new research may just set those minds at ease: the islands seem to naturally find ways to keep themselves above the waters.
The three-year study, led by the University of Plymouth, UK, suggests that these small islands can naturally “acclimate” to the rising sea levels, as the waves move sediment that keep the islands elevated and habitable.
Hideki Kanamaru, natural resources officer at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Asia-Pacific, says the research offers a “new perspective” on how islands could tackle the issue of rising seas. As the study’s lead author Gerd Masselink notes, building sea walls on coral islands that don’t depend on agriculture can in fact threaten the islands’ natural ability to adjust to the rising seas. Instead, islanders should focus on buildings on stilts, movable homes and other climate-resilient infrastructure that can help them better adapt to the changing climate.