These Coastal Nations Are Losing Land, and Fast

Between 1961 and 2014, the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis has lost more than a quarter of its land. mbrand85/Shutterstock

The seas of change are sometimes difficult to stop, especially when it's the literal sea and not a metaphorical one.

According to World Bank data compiled in 2016, a number of countries lost sometimes significant amounts of land between 1961 and 2014, and some coastal nations were hit particularly hard.

"Entire land masses can shift, or sink beneath the waves, never to be seen again," Johnny Wood writes for the World Economic Forum.

Coastal countries at risk

The coastal country hardest hit over the 53-year period was the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The twin islands have lost 25.71 percent of their land area since 1961, around 35 square miles (90 square kilometers), or roughly the size of Disney World in Orlando.

Coming in second was the South American country of Ecuador. This country suffered a loss of 10.29 percent of its land, or about 11,000 square miles. This is about the area of Massachusetts.

While that's certainly more overall land lost than St. Kitts and Nevis, remember that the Caribbean nation is only about 101 square miles today. The percentage of lost land is significantly steeper compared to a country like Ecuador, which has an area of 109,484 square miles. On an island, there's simply less land to lose.

The graphic below, created by Niall McCarthy for Statista using charts made in 2016 by Travel Stat Man, shows the other top coastal countries that have suffered land losses.

Statista chart showing coastal country land loss between 1961 and 2014
This chart shows the countries with the greatest percentage of land area lost since 1961. Statista

This chart shows the countries with the greatest percentage of land area lost since 1961. (Image: Statista)

The causes for the land losses go unspecified in the World Bank database, but the World Economic forum highlights the dangers of sea level rise and, particularly in the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, land lost due to severe storms.

"Several powerful storms have ravaged the islands, in particular Hurricane Luis (1995), Georges (1998) and Lenny (1999). High winds and waves can erode coastlines, move beaches and absorb wetlands, remolding the land area," Wood explains.