A Marshall Islands atoll that grew 23 per cent in 65 years shows islands can form and grow much more rapidly than previously thought.
And scientists say the research may be significant as sea levels continue to rise thanks to climate change, threatening low-lying atolls.
In 1905, Nadikdik Atoll in the Marshall Islands was hit by a devastating typhoon which destroyed large sections of the reef island, and killed the entire population except two survivors.
Scientists from the University of Auckland compared aerial photographs from 1945 with pictures from 2010, and found the vegetated area of the islands grew by 23 per cent.
The research puts this down to sediments generated from the atoll's surrounding reef system, which was likely in a healthy condition as the atoll had been uninhabited since 1905.
The scientists also noticed a new island grow from a sediment deposit to a fully vegetated and stable island in 61 years, and a number of separate islands form a single larger island.
"These changes were rapid and indicate that reef island formation can occur quickly," the report said.
Sea levels are expected to continue rising thanks to climate change, with the levels around Marshall Islands rising at about 2.2 millimetres a year since 1946.
The report said there was considerable global interest about the future stability of the landforms given the projected sea level increases.
Past studies have focused on the immediate impacts of extreme weather events on islands, but comparatively few studies have documented how islands have changed after the impact.
The report was the first to note the development of new islands.