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The Pacific's low-lying reef islands are likely to change shape in response to climate change, rather than simply sinking beneath rising seas and becoming uninhabitable as previously assumed, new research has found.
Atoll nations such as Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati lie only a few metres above sea level and are considered the world's most vulnerable to global warming, with fears their populations will become climate refugees as waters rise.
Study - Week - Islands - Environment - Remains
But a study published this week found that such islands "morphodynamically respond" to the environment because they are composed of the skeletal remains of tiny reef-dwelling organisms, rather than solid rock.
The researchers said evidence that such islands slowly change like shifting sands had profound implications for climate change planning in affected nations.
Co-author - Murray - Ford - Auckland - University
Co-author Murray Ford of Auckland University said low-lying reef islands appeared more resilient than previously thought.
"The effects on individual islands will vary so that while some areas may become uninhabitable, (other) areas will keep pace with rising seas," he said.
Governments - Communities - Time - Study - Fact
"It will be up to governments and communities to decide how to respond over time, but we think this study highlights the fact that nature provides a template for adaptation and island communities may need to adapt too."
The study, conducted by researchers from New Zealand, Britain and Canada,...
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