Rising seas are a fatal reality for those living beside them

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Rising seas are a fatal reality for those living beside them

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This victim of climate change could hold its beach-head no longer  A rainforest tree, its roots newly exposed by rising sea levels (Custom)  Calophyllum north of Dundee Beach, standing forlornly against the sea, dying slowly as its roots are stripped bare  A rough sea in March 2011 eating the Casuarina beach dunes  Rock platform stripped of its veneer of soil and trees

At the weekend we camped at Dundee Beach and I was astonished at the rate of erosion from the headland north of the boat ramp. There is a small rainforest scrub there but trees at its edge are dead or dying, their exposed roots hanging like tangled lace.

A full half metre of soil was washed away by wet season storms. Closer to the sea severed roots, poking up like electrical wires in an unfinished home, are all that remain of trees that once grew there. We camped further north where a magnificent Calophyllum tree hangs grimly to its own promontory, its desperate roots reaching back into the dune a full ten metres behind. Further up the beach a fellow beach giant has succumbed, tilting dead to the sand after all its support has been washed away; another is just a burnt stump. You cannot argue with those trees that the sea is rising. You can see it won’t be many years before the sea cuts through the dunes and immerses the woodland behind in salty water. Casuarina beach provides evidence closer to home of sea level rise. Storms in March turned the wooden walkway near Rapid Creek into a ladder. Further north the first roots of a tall casuarina are starting to emerge –it is unlikely to last more than a few more years. Of course old timers may remember some of the dunes there forming – certainly old glass deep in the sand suggests that Cyclone Tracey or even people may have had a hand in their creation.  The same cannot be said for the more consolidated sandy sediment about 40 metres north of the casuarina. I would guess that the dunes there were formed when the seas was slightly higher than they are today, about 7,000 years ago. In those days the floodplains of Kakadu were a vast mangrove swamp. I find it extraordinary to watch the same process of inundation repeating itself so rapidly every time a king tide coincides with rough weather. How little prepared we really are for the changes that are coming. Mind you one can go to the other extreme:

 

Singapore is particularly well prepared for sea level rise

Singapore is particularly well prepared for sea level rise.