The characterization of Pacific Islands as especially vulnerable to climate change often undervalues the cultural resilience of their inhabitants. On many Micronesian islands, coastal stone-built structures are the most visible type of tangible cultural resilience and have endured for perhaps 1000 years or more. A distinction is recognized between older structures, likely built in response to sea-level rise during the Medieval Warm Period (AD 750–1250), and more recent structures that likely took advantage of the lowered sea level during the Little Ice Age (AD 1350–1800). Detailed studies of Micronesian responses to recent coastal change were undertaken in the islands of Yap (Proper). The positioning and maintenance of coastal men’s houses (faluw) reflect either pragmatic responses to unmanageable coastal change or a cultural determination to resist this. The long history of traditional responses to climate variability and coastal change for terrestrial food production on Yap is also discussed. Future adaptation pathways on Yap and other higher islands in Micronesia need to combine scientific knowledge of climate change with traditional responses to historical change, including the stonework tradition and the cultural determination to resist undesired coastal change.
Regional Environmental Change / Vol. Article in Press