Abstract

FORD, M., 2012. Shoreline changes on an urban atoll in the central Pacific Ocean: Majuro atoll, Marshall Islands.

Majuro is the capital and most populated atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and is located approximately 3700 km W–SW of Oahu, Hawaii. Like other atolls, Majuro is considered highly vulnerable to sea level rise. One of the widely perceived impacts of sea level rise on atoll islands is widespread chronic erosion. Using a combination of aerial photos and satellite imagery, this study presents an analysis of shoreline change over a 34- to 37-year study period, characterized by rapidly increasing population, coastal development, and rising sea level (3.0 mm y−1). Results show most (93%) urban and rural villages have increased in size over the study period. Shoreline change analysis indicates the urban area has expanded both toward the lagoon and onto the ocean-facing reef flat. Shoreline change within the urban area of Majuro has been largely driven by widespread reclamation for a mix of residential, commercial, and industrial activities. Rural areas of the atoll typically have lower rates of shoreline change relative to those of urban areas. Analysis indicates that the rural lagoon shore is predominantly eroding, whereas the ocean-facing shore is largely accreting. Any shoreline response to sea level rise along the Majuro coast is likely masked by widespread anthropogenic impacts to the coastal system.

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