Detached Islands: Artificial Islands as adaptation challenges in the making


  • Michelle Eva Portman Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning Technion - Israel Institute of Technology



ocean sprawl, artificial islands, Mediterranean Sea, sea reclamation, land reclamation, offshore islands


There is surprisingly little information and concern within academic literature in the field of coastal or marine planning and management related to the issue of artificial islands. This is particularly noteworthy considering the climate change phenomenon, vis-à-vis sea-level rise, the urgent need for adaptation, efforts aiming for sustainable use of coastal areas, and the recent focus in academic circles on marine spatial planning. Most literature (including grey literature) on artificial islands appears in the engineering and geology disciplines and is focused on energy extraction, i.e., oil and gas. Yet some coastal nations are intent on solving problems of lack of space and other resource shortages through construc- tion of near-shore artificial islands for myriad uses, including commercial, residential and transportation infrastructure. This paper presents a limited review of the policy literature about planning and construction of artificial islands. It reflects what repercussions artificial islands portend for marine conservation, sustainability and, most importantly, how climate change adaptation is highlighted or neglected in spatial solutions addressed by the building of nearshore artificial islands. The Israeli situation, where tenders have been recently published calling for planning and building of islands in the Mediterranean Sea, serves as an example.

Author Biography

Michelle Eva Portman, Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

Dr. Portman graduated the Technion with a B.Sc. in Political Economy of Natural Resources from the University of California Berkeley (’84), a M.Sc. in Urban and Regional Planning (’91), and the University of Massachusetts with a doctorate in Public Policy (’07). She returned to Israel in 2009 following a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Marine Policy Center of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Cape Cod, USA. At WHOI she researched how land uses in major fishing ports along the New England coast are influenced by changes in commercial marine fish stocks. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship in the Geography Department of Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2011. She is now an Associate Professor at the Technion's Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning; her expertise applies to water policy and management and environmental planning for oceans and coasts. She has published widely in major academic journals, with over 40 referred publications, and teaches courses in environmental planning, resources management and GIS. Currently her research focuses on integrated coastal zone management, marine spatial planning, management of marine protected areas, marine litter and water sensitive urban design.


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How to Cite

Portman, M. E. (2019). Detached Islands: Artificial Islands as adaptation challenges in the making. DIE ERDE – Journal of the Geographical Society of Berlin, 150(3), 158–168.