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Island abandonment and sea-level rise: An historical analog from the Chesapeake Bay, USA

Island abandonment and sea-level rise: An historical analog from the Chesapeake Bay, USA
Island abandonment and sea-level rise: An historical analog from the Chesapeake Bay, USA
Small islands are widely agreed to be vulnerable to human-induced sea-level rise during the 21st century and beyond, with forced abandonment of some low-lying oceanic islands being a real possibility. A regional abandonment of islands in the Chesapeake Bay, USA provides an historical analog of such vulnerability as this has been linked to a mid 19th Century acceleration in relative sea-level rise. Using a case study approach for Holland Island, Maryland, this hypothesis was tested using a range of physical and human historical data. While sea-level rise was the underlying driver, this analysis shows that the abandonment was more complex than a direct response to sea-level rise. Between 1850 and 1900, Holland Island was a booming community and population increased from 37 to 253, with immigration causing the majority of the increase. At the same time, the upland area where people made their homes was steadily diminishing, losing about 15 ha or 38% of the total. After 1900, the island experienced a decrease in population to 169 in 1916, with final abandonment in 1918, with the exception of one family who left by 1920. Final abandonment was triggered by this depopulation as the population fell below a level that could support critical community services, and the community lost faith in their future on Holland Island. It is likely that similar social processes determined the abandonment of the other Chesapeake Bay islands. Looking to the future, it shows that many small low-lying islands could be abandoned due to sea-level rise long before they become physically uninhabitable.
islands, sea-level rise, abandonment, atoll nations
0959-3780
40-47
Arenstam Gibbons, Sheila
8bae1140-6168-4049-8101-e105b515abd4
Nicholls, R.J.
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076
Arenstam Gibbons, Sheila
8bae1140-6168-4049-8101-e105b515abd4
Nicholls, R.J.
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076

Arenstam Gibbons, Sheila and Nicholls, R.J. (2005) Island abandonment and sea-level rise: An historical analog from the Chesapeake Bay, USA. Global Environmental Change, 16 (1), 40-47. (doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2005.10.002).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Small islands are widely agreed to be vulnerable to human-induced sea-level rise during the 21st century and beyond, with forced abandonment of some low-lying oceanic islands being a real possibility. A regional abandonment of islands in the Chesapeake Bay, USA provides an historical analog of such vulnerability as this has been linked to a mid 19th Century acceleration in relative sea-level rise. Using a case study approach for Holland Island, Maryland, this hypothesis was tested using a range of physical and human historical data. While sea-level rise was the underlying driver, this analysis shows that the abandonment was more complex than a direct response to sea-level rise. Between 1850 and 1900, Holland Island was a booming community and population increased from 37 to 253, with immigration causing the majority of the increase. At the same time, the upland area where people made their homes was steadily diminishing, losing about 15 ha or 38% of the total. After 1900, the island experienced a decrease in population to 169 in 1916, with final abandonment in 1918, with the exception of one family who left by 1920. Final abandonment was triggered by this depopulation as the population fell below a level that could support critical community services, and the community lost faith in their future on Holland Island. It is likely that similar social processes determined the abandonment of the other Chesapeake Bay islands. Looking to the future, it shows that many small low-lying islands could be abandoned due to sea-level rise long before they become physically uninhabitable.

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More information

Published date: October 2005
Keywords: islands, sea-level rise, abandonment, atoll nations

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 53510
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/53510
ISSN: 0959-3780
PURE UUID: ba2cfd3d-9312-4da5-b2c3-6edabc6a58f3
ORCID for R.J. Nicholls: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9715-1109

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Date deposited: 21 Jul 2008
Last modified: 29 Oct 2019 01:52

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Author: Sheila Arenstam Gibbons
Author: R.J. Nicholls ORCID iD

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