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Assessing the impacts of and resilience to Tropical Cyclone Bejisa, Reunion Island (Indian Ocean)

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An Erratum to this article was published on 01 August 2016


This paper highlights the high variability of the nature and severity of the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Bejisa (January 2014, category 3) along the 20-km-long beach–dune systems of the western coast of Reunion Island. Erosional impacts were reported on 17 out of 26 topographic transects, while nine transects exhibited accretion. Sediment loss and gain reached maximum average values of 1.23 and 0.36 m3/m of transect, respectively. Sediment deposition occurred on upper beaches and foredunes, which gained up to 1 m in thickness. After 1 year, beach resilience proved to be medium (from 0.4 to 0.8 m3/m) to high (>0.8 m3/m) on 40 % of transects, but some transects exhibited permanent dune loss. Marine inundation reached a maximum distance of 70.8 m from the vegetation line and a maximum elevation of 6.9 m above sea level. The indigenous vegetation showed high resistance to the impacts of the cyclone and rapid regeneration, whereas introduced species were lastingly damaged. The cyclonic waves damaged 18 seawalls protecting either public infrastructures or private properties, half of which had been reconstructed 3 months later. Severe damage was also caused to a marina built in the downstream section of a river. Importantly, this study emphasises the vicious-cycle effects caused by “coastal compression” that exacerbates the devastating impacts of cyclonic waves on beaches, vegetation and protection structures, encouraging coastal residents to strengthen engineered structures. In accretional areas, the reworking of sediment deposits by residents reduced the long-term benefits of sediment deposition. Such human-induced processes increase asset exposure and vulnerability.

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(Source: Météo France, Reunion Island)

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(Source: SHOM and Météo France)

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  1. See Duvat (2013) for additional details on methodology.

  2. Distant-source swells generated by storms forming in the temperate zone 2500–3500 km away from Reunion Island regularly affect its western coast during the winter season (May–October). The south-western swells observed in April 2015 were noticeable for their early occurrence.

  3. TC Bansi (8–16/01/2015), category 5, formed to the north-west of Reunion Island and tracked to the north-east before moving southeastwards. This TC was the first category five TC to track <400 km from Reunion Island over the past 20 years. It generated heavy swells that hit the north-western and western coasts of Reunion Island between 12 and 21 January.


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This study benefited from the support of the Fondation de France, the Région Réunion, the French Ministry of the Environment (MEEM) and the French National Research Agency (ANR) under the VulneraRe, Réomers (Risques, Décision, Territoires programme) and Storisk (ANR-15-CE03-0003-02) research projects. AKM also thanks the French Government for its support under the “Investissement d’avenir” programme, managed by the French National Research Agency (ANR-10-LABX-14-01). The authors are grateful to Paul-Bernard Rivet, who contributed to the generation of data on marine inundation during his Masters degree internship by conducting post-cyclone interviews with coastal residents, and to Dorothée James, who contributed to building the database of the VulneraRe research project.

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Correspondence to V. K. E. Duvat.

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Topographic profiles P2 (a), P3 (b) and P4 (c), Saint-Paul Bay, sediment cell 1 (see location on Fig. 6). These three beach profiles show the erosional impacts of TC Bejisa on the beach-dune system of Saint-Paul Bay and the contrasting responses of the dune and beach, the former showing limited or no resilience, whereas the latter proves to be resilient. (EPS 1807 kb)


Topographic profiles P5 (a), P6 (b) and P8 (c), Boucan Canot Beach, sediment cell 3 (see location on Fig. 6). These three beach profiles show the marked erosional impacts of TC Bejisa on the beach-dune system of Boucan Canot Beach and the unequal resilience of the beach during the year following the event. Profile 8 (c) shows that the cyclonic waves destroyed a seawall that was rapidly rebuilt by residents after the event (see photographs e and f, Fig. 16). This narrow section of the beach is less resilient than its much wider northern section. (EPS 1779 kb)


Topographic profiles P10 (a), P11 (b) and P12 (c), Cap Homard Beach, sediment cell 4 (see location on Fig. 6). These profiles show the marked erosional impacts of TC Bejisa on the narrowest central (b) and southern (c) parts of Cap Homard Beach that exhibited limited resilience during the year following the cyclone. (EPS 2912 kb)


Topographic profiles P16 (a), P17 (b) and P18 (c), Ermitage Beach, sediment cell 6 (see location on Fig. 6). Profiles 16 (a) and 17 (b) illustrate the contrasting impacts of TC Bejisa in built and non-built areas: profile 16 shows the marked and long-lasting erosional impacts of TC Bejisa on coastal sections that have a narrow beach bordered by seawalls, highlighting the role of vertical structures in generating sediment loss; on the contrary, profile 17 shows that natural sand-dune systems are both less impacted by cyclonic waves and more resilient to their impacts. Profile 18 (c) illustrates the limited impacts of TC Bejisa on the southern part of the Ermitage-La Saline sediment cell. (EPS 1688 kb)


Topographic profiles P19 (a), P20 (b) and P21 (c), Ermitage-La Saline Beach, sediment cell 6 (see location on Fig. 6). Profile 19 exhibits the accretional impacts of TC Bejisa (+0.3 m3) and the following storms (distant-source swells occurring in April 2014 and TC Bansi, January 2015) on this southern coastal section. Profiles 20 (b) and 21 (c) clearly exhibit the accretional impacts of all three storms. (EPS 1586 kb)


Topographic profiles P22 (a), P24 (b) and P25 (c), Ermitage-La Saline Beach, sediment cell 6 (see location on Fig. 6). Compared to profiles P19, P20 and P21, these southernmost profiles exhibit the accretional impacts of TCs Bejisa (January 2014) and Bansi (January 2015), with sediment gain ranging from +1.3 to +7.9 m3. These results are in accordance with multi-decadal shoreline changes showing coastline advance. (EPS 1472 kb)

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Duvat, V.K.E., Magnan, A.K., Etienne, S. et al. Assessing the impacts of and resilience to Tropical Cyclone Bejisa, Reunion Island (Indian Ocean). Nat Hazards 83, 601–640 (2016).

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