Duvat, al. (2019). Taking control of human-induced destabilisation of atoll islands: lessons learnt from the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. Sustainability Science.



Based on the study of nine atolls of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia, this article assesses the anthropogenic disturbances that disrupt atoll island natural dynamics and thereby undermine the ability of these islands to naturally adjust to climate-related pressures. It more specifically investigates to what extent the existing legal framework limits these disturbances. The results show that 20 types of human disturbances occurring in the intertidal, coastal and inland areas contribute to island destabilisation. Land reclamation, sediment extraction from coastal and intertidal areas, coastal developments and engineered protection structures are the main disturbances observed. These disturbances are increasingly occurring on both urban and rural islands. We found that law has failed in regulating these disturbances for various reasons, related to both the content of law (including legal gaps and the lack of atoll-specific legal provisions) and the failure of its implementation, which reflects governance issues. In this context, taking control of human disturbances requires not only strengthening and updating existing legal tools, but also and most importantly creating the enabling conditions for law to be effective, especially through the strengthening of institutions’ capacities and public involvement. Additionally, promoting alternatives to locally carried out sediment mining and encouraging the construction of raised houses would help taking control of human-induced island destabilisation.