Morphodynamic controls for growth and evolution of a rubble coral island

Lara Talavera*, Ana Vila-Concejo, Jody M. Webster, Courtney Smith, Stephanie Duce, Thomas E. Fellowes, Tristan Salles, Daniel Harris, Jon Hill, Will Figueira, Jörg Hacker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rubble islands are dynamic sedimentary features present on reef platforms that evolve under a variety of morphodynamic processes and controlling mechanisms. They provide valuable inhabitable land for small island nations, critical habitat for numerous species, and are threatened by climate change. Aiming to investigate the controlling mechanisms dictating the evolution of One Tree Island (OTI), a rubble island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef, we combined different remotely-sensed data across varying timescales with wave data extracted from satellite altimetry and cyclone activity. Our findings show that (1) OTI had expanded by 7% between 1978 and 2019, (2) significant gross planform decadal adjustments were governed by the amount, intensity, proximity, and relative position of cyclones as well as El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phases, and (3) the mechanisms of island growth involve rubble spits delivering and redistributing rubble to the island through alongshore sediment transport and wave overtopping. Frequent short-term monitoring of the island and further research coupling variations in the different factors driving island change (i.e., sediment availability, reef-wave interactions, and extreme events) are needed to shed light on the future trajectory of OTI and other rubble islands under a climate change scenario.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1582
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: Financial support of this research was provided by the Australian Research Council (DP120101793, FT100100215), the internal research plan of the University of Cádiz, and the University of York Research Priming Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cyclones
  • DEMs of difference
  • ENSO
  • Geomorphic change
  • Gravel island
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Planform changes
  • Reef island dynamics
  • Remote-sensing
  • Rubble spit dynamics

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