by Genevieve Wanucha
The coral reefs encircling many volcanic ocean islands of the South Pacific appear in one of three forms. Tahiti’s coral, for example, forms a ‘fringing’ reef, a shelf growing close to the island’s shore. The ‘barrier’ reefs of Moorea are separated from the main island by a calm lagoon. Finally, an ‘atoll, ’ such as Manuae, appears as a ring of coral enclosing a lagoon with no island at its center. During the voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s, the Pacific reefs impressed English naturalist Charles Darwin, inspiring some of his earliest evolutionary ideas. To him, the different reef forms reflect different stages in a dramatic process occurring as an island sinks.
Strange as it seems to us continent dwellers, it’s true. The world’s volcanic ocean islands are sinking. As the young volcanic rock cools and is carried away from the volcanic “hot spot” by the movement of tectonic plates, the island sinks down as rapidly as a few millimeters per year. At the same time, Darwin proposed, the surfaces of the resident coral reefs grow upwards; the living coral organisms up top and their symbiotic algae get enough sunlight to keep pace with the vertical motion of the island. As the coral grows up and the island sinks down, a fringing reef progresses to a barrier reef, and eventually, leaves a signature atoll.
However, Darwin’s theory can’t explain the trajectories of other volcanic ocean island systems, as a certain group of researchers recently found. It all started when WHOI coastal geomorphologist Andrew Ashton and MIT-WHOI graduate student Michael Toomey were studying the effect of hurricanes in Tahiti’s lagoons but became “distracted by the corals” in the process. Soon, they convinced MIT’s Taylor Perron, who has an interest in ocean island landscapes, to join them in studying coral reef formation.
When they began to look beyond the Society Islands to the Hawaiian Islands system, they discovered a different kind of progression. For example, they found fringing reef where they expected to find no reef development and drowned barrier reefs where they expected living barrier reefs. “Those islands are just not sinking into atolls like the Society Islands, ” says Toomey, “so we wanted to develop a model to explain these differences.”how to add a username and password to sqlite helper database What does breast cancer look like on a mammogram? What does nbd stand for? How much water to drink each day? What does a late period mean? What is a neet? What does halal meat mean? How to remove activation lock without previous owner? What does delineate mean? What hormone does the pineal gland release? How big are afm tips? What is dns server? What does the name logan mean? How to make doughnuts? How to use an air fryer? How to use face roller? What is the meaning of 1010 in love? 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