Climate change impacts in Small Islands

Climate change impacts in Small Islands - what the IPCC 4th Assessment Report has found
  • Consistent warming trends in all small islands’ regions over the 1901 to 2004 []
  • Climate change is likely to heavily impact coral reefs, fisheries and other marine-based resources [TS4.2].
  • Sea level rise and increased seawater temperature are projected to accelerate beach erosion, and cause degradation of natural coastal defenses such as mangroves and coral reefs [16.4.6].
  • Increasing sea surface temperature and rising sea level, increased turbidity, nutrient loading and chemical pollution, damage from tropical cyclones, and decreases in growth rates due to the effects of higher carbon dioxide concentrations on ocean chemistry, are very likely to affect the health of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems which sustain island fisheries. Such impacts will exacerbate non-climate change stresses on coastal systems. [16.4.3]
  • Coastal vegetated wetlands are sensitive to climate change and long-term sea-level change. Losses would be severe on most small island regions due to their low tidal range []
  • On some islands, especially those at higher latitudes, warming has already led to the replacement of some local species [TS4.2].
  • Small islands have characteristics that make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea level rise and extreme events [TS4.2].
  • The beach-based tourism industry in Barbados and the marine diving based ecotourism industry in Bonaire are both negatively affected by climate change through beach erosion in Barbados and coral bleaching in Bonaire.
  • The influence of global warming could be a major factor in accentuating the current climate regimes and the changes from normal that come with ENSO events [].
Coral reef, Turtle Islands, Philippines. 
	© WWF / Jürgen FREUND
Coral reef, Turtle Islands, Philippines.
© WWF / Jürgen FREUND

Climate Witnesses

WWF runs the Climate Witness programme to collect people's local observations of climate change that are then verified by scientists.
Ben Namakin is currently living in Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. Ben works as an environmental educator for the Conservation Society of Pohnpei. Ben has witnessed the impact that rising sea level is having on coastal communities.
Linda Morton has been visiting Aitutaki and Rarotonga islands over the past 10 years. While snorkelling in the lagoons near these islands in April 2006 she saw coral go from being magenta to bright white in the space of a few days. In general she noticed that the there was much less colourful coral and more “grey rocks” which is what is left once the coral dies.

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