Rising sea levels will affect coasts and human societies in complex and unpredictable ways, according to a new study involving the University of Plymouth.
Researchers reconstructed 12,000 years of sea-level rises to produce maps of coastal changes at thousand-year intervals.
They found that today’s Isles of Scilly, off the coast of Cornwall, emerged from a single island that only became the current configuration of more than 140 islands less than 1,000 years ago.
The study, published in Science Advances, found that changes in both land area and human cultures happened at variable rates and often out of step with the prevailing rate of sea-level rise.
With climate change now driving rapid sea-level rise, the team says the effects will not always be as simple as a forced human retreat from coasts.
Co-authored by Professor of Geospatial Information Ralph Fyfe, the study was led by the University of Exeter, in partnership with Cornwall Council and 15 other institutes. Its other authors included Dan Charman, former Professor of Physical Geography in Plymouth, as well as former PhD students Dr Robert Barnett and Dr Marta Perez.