Pacific Islands Grow Back, More Resilient Than Thought

  • Date: 23/02/14
  • Sarah Griffith, Daily Mail

A string of Pacific islands have apparently “grown back” after they were devastated by a typhoon a century ago. The phenomenon could have huge significance for low-lying islands across the Pacific threatened by rising sea levels, scientists say.

Nadikdik Atoll, also known as Knox Atoll

Nadikdik Atoll, otherwise known as Knox Atoll, was largely destroyed in 1905

In 1905 a devastating typhoon swept over the Nadikdik atoll in the middle of the Pacific ocean, killing the majority of inhabitants and washing away most of the island.

Just two people survived the storm, but just over a century on, the islands have ‘grown back’ from a sandy deposit to lush reef islands.

Now, researchers from New Zealand have studied the reformation of the atoll, which is part of the remote Marshall Islands, to show how islands can form in relatively short periods of time.

A University of Auckland study published in the journal Geomorphology documented the changes that have occurred in the Nadikdik atoll, also known as the Knox atoll, since the terrible typhoon, where large sections of reef were decimated.
Dr Murray Ford and Professor Paul Kench studied aerial images of the islands from 1945 up until 2010 and found that a new island has grown from remains, The New Zealand Herald reported.

In just over 60 years the island has grown lush vegetation and by studying the aerial photographs they found that patches of vegetation on the once barren landmass have grown by almost 25 per cent, the NZCity website reported. 

The Nadikidik atoll has grown up from a ruined deposit of sandy and coral into a collection of islands including a fully vegetated and stable landmass as well another larger island composed of once separates smaller islands.

 Researchers at the University of Auckland studied aerial images (pictured) of the islands from 1945 up until 2010 and found that a new island has grown from decimated remains
 

Researchers at the University of Auckland studied aerial images (pictured) of the islands from 1945 up until 2010 and found that a new island has grown from decimated remains

The researchers think this rapid regeneration was made possible because the sea around the sandy deposits was so healthy.

‘The storm obviously generated huge amounts of sediment and threw up large amounts of coral on to the islands, which has helped them to re-organise themselves,’ the scientists said.

Nadikdik Atoll (pictured) - otherwise known as Knox Atoll - is an uninhabited coral atoll of 18 islands in the Pacific Ocean

Nadikdik Atoll (pictured) – otherwise known as Knox Atoll – is an uninhabited coral atoll of 18 islands in the Pacific Ocean

‘They change, they move, they shift – you’ll have a period of erosion on one part and a period of accretion on the other.’

Dr Ford, who lived in the Marshall Islands for three years, said the changes were rapid and indicate that reef island formation can occur quickly.

‘Evidence suggests that despite the typhoon occurring over a century ago the geomorphic adjustment of islands is still on-going,’ he said.

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