Geophysical Visualization of Reef Island Accretion and Stratigraphic Architecture using Ground Penetrating Radar

Yiqing Liang, Paul S. Kench, Murray R. Ford, Holly East

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Coral reef islands are small, low-lying landforms that provide the only habitable land for atoll nations and support a range of endemic flora and fauna. Thus, the vulnerability of these islands to projected sea-level rise is a global concern. The internal structure and modes of island accretion are integral in understanding how islands have formed and subsequently, how they will change in the future. This study employs extensive ground penetrating radar (GPR) imaging on a reef island on Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives, combined with island coring and stratigraphic analyses, in order to infer styles of island accretion. The GPR images imply central core accretion, with vertical accretion occurring on the initial core and progradation occurring outwards in both directions. However, some transects display progradation occurring predominately in one direction, which may also indicate erosional and rollover or overwash processes that could have led to island migration. Furthermore, using inferences of major radar units and boundary changes in signal reflectors combined with detailed subsurface sedimentology, the subsurface stratigraphy of the island sediments was divided into four discrete facies: velu (lagoon infill), finolhu (initial island core), athiri (beach and paleobeach), and muraka (surface layer) facies. The GPR records on KAN provide visual evidence of the mode of island evolution to complement previous theoretical interpretations, and have demonstrated the capability of GPR to discern sedimentary facies, subsurface features, and changes in sediment characteristics on reef islands. Results from this study show past processes of island building and could infer island response to various stages of sea-level change, which has implications for the stability of reef islands in the face of projected sea-level rise.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCoastal Sediments 2019
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 9th International Conference
EditorsPing Wang, Julie D. Rosati, Mathieu Vallee
PublisherWorld Scientific
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811204494
Publication statusPublished - May 2019
EventCoastal Sediments 2019: Advancing Science & Engineering for Resilient Coastal Systems - TradeWinds Island Grand Resort, St. Petersburg, United States
Duration: 27 May 201931 May 2019

Publication series

NameCoastal Sediments 2019 Proceedings of the 9th International Conference
PublisherWorld Scientific


ConferenceCoastal Sediments 2019
Abbreviated titleCS19
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySt. Petersburg
Internet address


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