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36. Ontong Java Atoll • Solomon Islands

We have selected 100 unique places on Earth that are projected to undergo profound changes within the next few generations. We based our selection of the 100 places on the 4th Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Simply by drawing attention to the beauty of these places, 100 Places to Remember Before they Disappear creates an argument to preserve them. The 100 Places we have chosen to highlight, and the people who live in them, are in serious danger because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures and extreme weather events triggered by climate change. Among ambassadors are Joss Stone, Desmund Tutu for more info visit http://www.100places.com. A Lagoon of Fishermen at the Edge of the World People have been fishing and gathering coconuts on the isolated tropical Ontong Java Atoll in the far north of the Solomon Islands for at least 2,000 years. One of the largest atolls in the world, the total land area is a mere 12 square kilometres, most of it less than two metres above sea level. The 122 small coral islands encircle a lagoon measuring more than 2,500 square kilometres. Only two of the largest islands are permanently inhabited, and with a total population of 2,000, this is one of the smallest, most isolated societies in the world. The islanders live off coconuts and fish. On the larger islands, they cultivate the tropical plant taro, which also forms an important part of their diet. The taro is grown in freshwater swamps artificially deepened to form mulching pits. The coral reefs and lagoons are home to a rich variety of seafood, and the inhabitants catch sea cucumber to sell on the Hong Kong market. They also exchange copra the dried meat of the coconut for goods and cash. Climate change may change the atoll completely in less than a century. The coral, the debris of which serves as the foundation of the atoll, functions as coastal protection. Any rise in temperature or increased acidification of the seawater could eventually kill it. A rise in sea level will also cause saline intrusion into the agricultural land and fresh water, and flood the low-lying parts of the islands. The effects on Ontong Java Atoll, on its people, the seabirds that breed on the islands and the many species of fish that live among the coral would be devastating.
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