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New Evidence That Reef Islands Can Repair Storm Wave Damage

Paper Reviewed
Mann, T. and Westphal, H. 2016. Multi-decadal shoreline changes on Taku Atoll, Papua New Guinea: Observational evidence of early reef island recovery after the impact of storm waves. Geomorphology 257: 75-84.

Noting that "hurricanes, tropical cyclones and other high-magnitude events are important steering mechanisms in the geomorphic development of coral reef islands," Mann and Westphal (2016) write that "sandy reef islands located outside the storm belts are strongly sensitive to the impact of occasional high-magnitude events," which typically induce "erosive geomorphic change." But they go on to describe how natural island recovery kicks in almost immediately "after the impact of a high-magnitude event."

In coming to this conclusion, the two German scientists describe how they analyzed "multi-temporal shoreline changes on Taku Atoll, Papua New Guinea" and combined their findings with a unique set of published field observations described by Smithers and Hoeke (2014). And what did they learn from this exercise?

Mann and Westphal report that their observations (and those of the other researchers they cite) "support the concept of dynamic rather than static reef islands and clearly demonstrate how short-term processes can influence interpretations of medium-term change." Collectively, they thus write that their results "support the concept of dynamic rather than static reef islands."

Smithers, S.G. and Hoeke, R.K. 2014. Geomorphological impacts of high-latitude storm waves on low-latitude reef islands - observations of the December 2008 event on Nukutoa, Takuu, Papua New Guinea. Geomorphology 222: 106-121.

Posted 27 July 2016