Sustainability Science

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 207–222 | Cite as

Sea-level rise vulnerability in the countries of the Coral Triangle

  • Elizabeth McleodEmail author
  • Jochen Hinkel
  • Athanasios T. Vafeidis
  • Robert J. Nicholls
  • Nick Harvey
  • Rodney Salm
Special Feature: Technical Report Vulnerability, risk, and adaptation in a changing climate


Sea-level rise is a major threat facing the Coral Triangle countries in the twenty-first century. Assessments of vulnerability and adaptation that consider the interactions among natural and social systems are critical to identifying habitats and communities vulnerable to sea-level rise and for supporting the development of adaptation strategies. This paper presents such an assessment using the DIVA model and identifies vulnerable coastal regions and habitats in Coral Triangle countries at national and sub-national levels (administrative provinces). The following four main sea-level rise impacts are assessed in ecological, social and economic terms over the twenty-first century: (1) coastal wetland change, (2) increased coastal flooding, (3) increased coastal erosion, and (4) saltwater intrusion into estuaries and deltas. The results suggest that sea-level rise will significantly affect coastal regions and habitats in the Coral Triangle countries, but the impacts will differ across the region in terms of people flooded annually, coastal wetland change and loss, and damage and adaptation costs. Indonesia is projected to be most affected by coastal flooding, with nearly 5.9 million people expected to experience flooding annually in 2100 assuming no adaptation. However, if adaptation is considered, this number is significantly reduced. By the end of the century, coastal wetland loss is most significant for Indonesia in terms of total area lost, but the Solomon Islands are projected to experience the greatest relative loss of coastal wetlands. Damage costs associated with sea-level rise are highest in the Philippines (US $6.5 billion/year) and lowest in the Solomon Islands (US $70,000/year). Adaptation is estimated to reduce damage costs significantly, in particular for the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia (between 68 and 99%). These results suggest that the impacts of sea-level rise are likely to be widespread in the region and adaptation measures must be broadly applied.


Sea-level rise Coral Triangle DIVA Climate change Vulnerability Adaptation 



We would like to thank Lars Exner for his valuable assistance in GIS and preparing the figures. Financial assistance was provided by the Regional Development Mission Asia (RDMA) Office of Environment, US Agency for International Development under the terms of Cooperative Agreement No.486-A-00-08-42-00. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the US Agency for International Development.


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Copyright information

© Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, United Nations University, and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Mcleod
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jochen Hinkel
    • 2
  • Athanasios T. Vafeidis
    • 3
  • Robert J. Nicholls
    • 4
  • Nick Harvey
    • 5
  • Rodney Salm
    • 1
  1. 1.Tropical Marine ConservationThe Nature ConservancyHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)PotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Geography, Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise Research Group, The Future Ocean Excellence ClusterChristian-Albrechts University KielKielGermany
  4. 4.School of Civil Engineering and the Environment, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  5. 5.Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesAdelaide UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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