Future of the Environment

Barrier islands protect coastlines - but they are also vulnerable

Storm clouds gather above the small huts and tower on Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati May 25, 2013. The tower used to mark the centre of the islet, but shifting sand over the years has pushed the tower further into the lagoon. Kiribati consists of a chain of 33 atolls and islands that stand just metres above sea level, spread over a huge expanse of otherwise empty ocean. With surrounding sea levels rising, Kiribati President Anote Tong has predicted his country will likely become uninhabitable in 30-60 years because of inundation and contamination of its freshwater supplies. Picture taken May 25, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray  (KIRIBATI - Tags: ENVIRONMENT POLITICS SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE 35 OF 42 FOR PACKAGE  'KIRIBATI - GONE IN 60 YEARS'. SEARCH 'KIRIBATI' FOR ALL IMAGES - LM2E96A14FH01

Barrier islands protect about 10 percent of coastlines worldwide. Image: REUTERS/David Gray

Anna Linhoss
Assistant Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Mississippi State University
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Future of the Environment

 How longshore drift moves sediment along a beach. 1=beach. 2=sea 3=longshore current direction 4=incoming waves 5=swash 6=backwash
Image: USGS
 Landsat image of North Carolina’s Outer Banks enclosing Pamlico Sound.
Image: NASA
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Related topics:
Future of the EnvironmentSustainable DevelopmentOcean
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