Small Islands and Climate Change

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Small islands are unique and largely self-contained ecosystems. Their existence owes much to their existing environmental endowment and linkages with other islands and markets. Understanding what sustains islands, maintains their current levels of well-being and how they will be affected by future climate is an important concern.

Small islands are marginal in several respects: they lie on the geographical periphery; their populations are socially and economically excluded; and they are often overlooked in policy terms. And yet these islands represent the front-line in the challenge of climate change. They therefore represent particularly fertile sites to look at the interplay of resilience, vulnerability and adaptation. They are, in effect, human and environmental petri-dishes that enable us to examine, at close quarters, the interplay of human and environmental transformational processes and outcomes, and the patterns of resilience and vulnerability that result.

Indonesia and the Philippines, for instance, have thousands of small islands. These islands are located in the middle of the world’s richest marine eco-region: the coral triangle. The Coral Triangle Initiative (2009) describes the coral triangle as representing "the global epicenter of marine life abundance and diversity -- with 76% of all known coral species, 37% of all known coral reef fish species, 53% of the world’s coral reefs, the greatest extent of mangrove forests in the world, and spawning and juvenile growth areas for the world’s largest tuna fishery."

Photo © Malik Naumann/Marine Photoban

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