Atoll Hike

Studies show many Pacific reef islands are actually growing as sea levels rise.

February 13, 2015

“I hired a fishing dory and made a spray-drenched trip across Funafuti's 106-square-mile lagoon to an uninhabited island called Tepuka. It has the classic appearance of an atoll island: a pancake of sand with a mop of vegetation and, floating above, a confetti of seabirds. Such islands look static, but they are perpetual construction sites. Their surrounding coral reefs are factories that produce a constant supply of raw building material: calcium carbonate. The factory 'workers' are biological agents that turn the skeletons of corals and other carbonate-containing creatures into sediment. Fish, sea urchins, and sponges are the principal processors. In one year they can produce four pounds of sediment per square foot of reef.”

From “Will Pacific Island Nations Disappear as Seas Rise? Maybe Not” Kennedy Warne's National Geographic piece on how reef islands are responding to climate change. 


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.