Understanding the Physical Dynamics of Coral Reef Islands in the Context of Environmental Change
About the Event:
Mid-ocean atoll nations are among the most vulnerable coastal systems. Projected sea-level rise and climatic change are expected to inundate and physically destabilise coral reef islands rendering them uninhabitable over the next century. These assertions are re-evaluated based on the controls on the formation and ongoing dynamical change of reef islands. Field-based experiments from the Indo-Pacific are used to explore island evolution in the context of Holocene sea level change and island morphological adjustment in response to variations in the process regime at millennial to event timescales. Results suggest, that contrary to popular opinion, reef islands are robust geological entities that have persisted on reef surfaces for several thousand years and are able to adjust their morphology and configuration on reef platforms in response to changing environmental boundary conditions. Physical flume experiments and validation of a numerical model, to simulate island change, offer new insights for island trajectories. Findings have significant implications for rethinking adaptation pathways in small island nations.
About the Speaker:
Dr Kench is a coastal geoscientist interested in coastal hazards and the physical and sedimentary processes that govern the formation and change in coastal landforms at a range of temporal scales. He has worked extensively in tropical coral reef systems and temperate gravel and rock coasts. His active research interests include: the evolution of coral reef islands during the Holocene; island and coastline morphodynamics; reconstructing paleo-ocean pH in the central Pacific over the past 2,500 years using geochemical analysis of coral skeletons; the physical response of coastlines to rising sea levels; and, impacts of sea level change on coastal communities. He has worked extensively through the Pacific and Indian Oceans and has active research collaborations with researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, University of Exeter, COAST-LAB at University of Plymouth; ZMT Bremen, University of New South Wales; and Nanyang Technical University, Singapore.
Prof. Kench is the Dean of Science at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. He has a PhD degree from University of New South Wales, Australia. He was previously the head and professor of School of Environment, University of Auckland, New Zealand.