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STORISK-Small islands addressing climate change: towards storylines of risk and adaptation

2016 à 2020

Background and issues

STORISK focuses on three key sea-related risks, namely coastal erosion, marine inundation and reef mortality, that are strongly influenced by climate stressors (notably climate/ocean interactions and sea-level rise) and are therefore likely to aggravate in a changing climate, to the point of casting doubt on the inhabitability of reef islands.
It proposes to develop an original and interdisciplinary approach based on the concepts of Chains of impacts and Trajectories of vulnerability.
Trajectories of vulnerability refer to storylines emphasizing changes in the driving factors and processes that have influenced past vulnerability and are therefore likely to influence future changes in vulnerability.

In parallel, chains of impacts formalize in the form of a flow-chart both

  1. the large range of impacts of a given climate- related extreme event (or climate change) on an island system, from its physical impacts to its impacts on ecosystems and resources (i.e., coral reefs, freshwater, etc.), human activities and the built environment (buildings, etc.), and
  2. all feedback effects. It therefore allows emphasize how the island system responds to a given extreme event or more gradual change (vulnerability) and apprehend the dynamic character of impacts (i.e., their extent, duration, intensity, connections with other impacts, etc.). 

This approach lays the foundation for a work on future adaptation pathways.

Research objectives
STORISK aims at developing an integrated approach to the risks induced by climate- and sea- related hazards (i.e., coastal erosion, marine inundation and coral mortality) on coastal areas in small islands.
Three French overseas territories are investigated:
  1. French Polynesia (Rangiroa, Tikehau, Mataiva and Takapoto atolls; and Tubuai and Rurutu Islands) in the Central Pacific Ocean, and
  2. Reunion Island (4 municipalities) and
  3. the Éparses Islands (Europa, Glorieuses, Juan de Nova) in the South-Western Indian Ocean. 
Secondary case studies in the Indian (the Seychelles) and Pacific (Kiribati and the Cook Islands) oceans help put the results into a regional to international perspective.
A central approach is the reconstruction and analysis of chains of impacts for both specific climate events (e.g., cyclones, ENSO) and gradual environmental changes (e.g., sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification), as well as of trajectories of vulnerability.
Applied to most of the case studies and associated with an in-depth analysis of the most recent knowledge from both physical and human sciences, such chains of impacts and trajectories of vulnerability help traduce the threats from current hazards and climate change into comprehensive “storylines of risk”.
This allows advancing scientific knowledge a step forward (i.e., highlighting the trade-offs between current and future challenges), as well as engaging an empirically-based dialogue with local to regional and national stakeholders on how to address future threats (i.e., adaptation strategies).
Funding and Partners
Funding partners
The Agence Nationale pour la Recherche

Coordinating Partners
LIENSs (Littoral, ENvironnement, Sociétés), University of la Rochelle & CNRS – -
IPSL (Institut Pierre Simon Laplace) –
Contributing Partners-
BRGM (Bureau de ressources géologiques et minières) – -
CEJEP (Centre d’Études Juridiques et Politiques, EA 3170) – - EPHE (École pratique des hautes etudes, Grand Établissement in Paris, France) – -
GEOPHEN (Géographie Physique et environnement) – -
LGP (Laboratoire de Géographie Physique) – -
LOV-UPMC-CNRS (Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche) –