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Island Economics

Islands provide a variety of economic features. In addition to fish (and animals that feed on fish) as a food source, shells have been used as money and exported in jewelry. Coral has many uses, including manufacture into road-building material, jewelry, and small implements. Harbors promote ocean trade. Snorkeling draws tourists, and some tropical woods are in high demand.

Island ecosystems, however, are coming under intense pressure from human use as industrialization continues. Management of island resources by legislation that prevents or limits certain activities has not worked well in developing countries, where individuals increasingly rely on harvest of local resources for subsistence or to improve their standard of living. Islands with developing economies may also lack scientists and government ministers trained in the long-term care of island ecosystems. Such situations are being addressed on several fronts. International attention has been directed toward the renewable use of resources and the training of island biologists. Island and marine parks have been proposed. As some island species are approaching extinction before their origins are known, scientists are increasingly concerned about raising awareness of the special features of islands and their contributions to geological and evolutionary knowledge.



Bakus, Gerald J., et al. Coral Reef Ecosystems. Rotterdam: A. A. Balkema, 1994.

Davis, Richard A., ed. Geology of Holocene Barrier Island Systems. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1994.

Dubinsky, Z., ed. Coral Reefs. Ecosystems of the World 25. (series ed., David D. Goodall). Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1990.

Nunn, Patrick D. Oceanic Islands. Oxford, England: Blackwell Publishers, 1994.

Marjorie Pannell


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—The distribution and relationship of plants and animals to a geographic locale.

Island arc

—An curved row of islands of volcanic origin that develops where two lithospheric plates converge, usually near the edge of a continent, and associated with the formation of a deep trench parallel to the arc as oceanic crust is subducted.


—Hot, liquid material that underlies areas of volcanic activity and forms igneous rock; magma at the earth's surface is called lava.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Intuitionist logic to KabbalahIsland - How Many Islands?, Island Formation, Coral Islands, Island Biogeography, Island Economics - Island types