Professor Paul Simon Kench

MA(Hons) (Auckland), PhD (UNSW)

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Head of School

Research | Current

As a coastal geomorphologist my principle fields of research interest span, coral reef geomorphology, coastal processes, medium-term coastal change, gravel beach processes and the application of coastal science to support coastal management.

I have an international research programme which focuses on understanding environmental processes in coral reef environments that control reef and reef island development and change. Specific studies have included the evolution of reef islands in The Maldives, Fiji, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Great Barrier Reef; wave processes on coral reefs; and, reef island morphodynamics. I have worked extensively in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

At the national scale my research interests are focussed on coastal morphodynamics and processes on gravel beach systems, shore platform processes and medium-scale coastal change.


International collaboration:

  • Development of a Rapid Carbonate Budget Assessment Protocol for Coral Reefs (2010-2012). This Leverhulme funded Network is establishing and testing new methodologies for the assessment of coral reef health. The project involves researchers from the U.K., Australia, USA, Canada and New Zealand and is currently working at reef sites in the Caribbean (Belize, Bahamas and Bonnaire) and will extend this work to the Indo-Pacific in the near future.
  • Changing Waves and Coasts in the Pacific (2012-2015). This is a joint research initiative with SPC-SOPAC, University of South Pacific (Fiji), UNESCO-IHE (Netherlands), CSIRO and The University of Auckland. The project aims to improve understanding of coastal hazards in small Pacific islands and will undertake detailed field investigations in Fiji and Tuvalu.
  • REEForm is a working group of the International Association of Geomorphologists. REEForm was established to enhance research effort into the geomorphic understanding of coral reefs and reef landforms. The international network has undertaken research projects in the Maldives and Great Barrier Reef.

Areas of expertise

Coastal processes, Coral reef geomorphology, Coral reef island dynamics, environmental change

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • McLean, R., & Kench, P. (2015). Destruction or persistence of coral atoll islands in the face of 20th and 21st century sea-level rise?. WILEY INTERDISCIPLINARY REVIEWS-CLIMATE CHANGE, 6 (5), 445-463. 10.1002/wcc.350
  • Kench, P. S., Thompson, D., Ford, M. R., Ogawa, H., & McLean, R. F. (2015). Coral islands defy sea-level rise over the past century: Records from a central Pacific atoll. Geology, 43 (6), 515-518. 10.1130/G36555.1
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Murray Ford
  • Kench, P. S., Owen, S. D., & Ford, M. R. (2014). Evidence for Coral Island Formation During Rising Sea Level in the Central Pacific Ocean. Geophysical Research Letters10.1002/2013GL059000
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Murray Ford, Susan Owen
  • Perry, C. T., Murphy, G. N., Kench, P. S., Smithers, S. G., Edinger, E. N., Steneck, R. S., & Mumby, P. J. (2013). Caribbean-wide decline in carbonate production threatens coral reef growth. Nat Commun, 410.1038/ncomms2409
  • Perry, C. T., Kench, P. S., Smithers, S. G., Riegl, B., Yamano, H., & O'Leary MJ (2011). Implications of reef ecosystem change for the stability and maintenance of coral reef islands. Global Change Biology, 17 (12), 3679-3696. 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02523.x
  • Webb, A. P., & Kench, P. S. (2010). The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific. Global and Planetary Change, 72 (3), 234-246. 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2010.05.003
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/17029
  • Kench, P. S., Smithers, S. G., McLean, R. F., & Nichol, S. L. (2009). Holocene reef growth in the Maldives: Evidence of a mid-Holocene sea-level highstand in the central Indian Ocean. GEOLOGY, 37 (5), 455-458. 10.1130/G25590A.1
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/17031
  • Kench, P. S., McLean, R. F., & Nichol, S. L. (2005). New model of reef-island evolution: Maldives, Indian Ocean. GEOLOGY, 33 (2), 145-148. 10.1130/G21066.1

Contact details

Alternative contact

Extension number: 85331

Primary location

SCIENCE CENTRE 302 - Bldg 302
Level 6, Room 629
23 SYMONDS ST
AUCKLAND 1010
New Zealand