Continued sea-level rise and coastal development have led to considerable concerns on coastline changes along inhabited islands. Analysis of long-term coastline changes of islands is however limited due to unavailable data and the cost of field work. In this study, high-resolution images taken from 1970–2011 at an interval of about 10 years and topographic maps were collected to determine coastline changes and their drivers in the Zhoushan Islands, China. Results show that nearly all inhabited islands appeared to have noteworthy seaward expansion during the past four decades. Coastline change rates varied among islands, and the annual change rate of Zhoushan Island (the main island) reached 12.83 ± 0.17 m/year during the same period. Since 2003, the study area has been dominated by artificial coast. The proportion of harbor/port and urban/industrial coast has significantly increased, while rocky coasts and shelter-farm coasts have shrunk greatly. Preliminary analysis of drivers for these coastline changes across the Zhoushan Islands highlights the roles of human policies during different periods as well as location, which were the dominant factors controlling the great spatial and temporal complexity of coastline changes of the major islands. Sediment supply from the Yangtze River decreased after the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in 2003; however, the Zhoushan coast rapidly accreted seaward during the last decade and the artificial siltation, coastal engineering, and harbor dredging materials could be responsible for the observed coastline changes. Pressured by rapid development of the port industry, the Zhoushan coast may face unprecedented challenges in coastal use in the near future. This research provides the basic background information for future studies on coastal protection and management.
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