Climate change induced effects or maldevelopment: small islands and conflicting attribution of root causes

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C. Gabriel David, Arne Hennig, Beate M. W. Ratter , Volker Roeber , ‎ Zahid, Torsten Schlurmann


Adapting to sea level rise, climate change, and associated effects is especially challenging in sensitive small-island environments where false adaptation can lead to adverse impacts on natural and societal dynamics. Framing and interest play a decisive role for the successful implementation of any adaptation measures. An interdisciplinary perspective on the interaction of natural dynamics, societal demands, and political decisions is crucial. This study scrutinizes the coastal processes and socio-political dimensions of erosion on the reef island Fuvahmulah, the Maldives. The national government and Fuvahmulah's population have opposed perception and attribution about the cause and effect of the retreating shoreline. To review these perceptions and determine the drivers and processes behind Fuvahmulah's most pressing coastal issue, natural dynamics are recreated with process-based numerical methods and discussed regarding the present and projected sea levels and wave climate. The numerical results are based on high resolution digital elevation models from airborne imagery and in-situ bathymetric measurements. Interviews with national and local actors in coastal development and population surveys complement the physical insights into erosion on the island and scrutinize the socio-political dimension of climate change adaptation on small islands. The results of the interdisciplinary approach demonstrate how small-islands' adaptive capacities are typically impaired in dealing with climate-related changes, they reveal the structural challenges of top-down processes, and disclose the potential of local knowledge to overcome maldevelopment.



Engineering, Social and Behavioral Sciences


climate change, maldevelopment, low-lying islands, small islands


Published: 2020-12-21 13:44


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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