THE IMPORTANCE OF ISLANDS...
The very thought of islands conjures up images of romance and tranquility. While it is true that on many of the world's 100,000-plus islands one might find swaying palm trees, lagoons teeming with marine life or waves gently lapping on a sandy beach, the importance of islands goes far beyond their striking beauty. Islands are the earth's great repositories of biological diversity. Thanks to their favorable climates and historic isolation, islands are home to thousands of species that do not exist elsewhere. The coral reefs that surround many islands are often referred to as the "rainforests of the ocean" because of their astonishing marine life. Many islands are home to mangrove forests, the breeding grounds and nurseries for countless species of fish. Even small islands have huge territorial claims to the surrounding oceans. All told, the exclusive economic zones of islands cover one sixth of the world's surface and harbor one half of its marine biodiversity.
...AND THE THREATS ISLANDS FACE
But island ecosystems and cultures are threatened as never before. They have a disproportionately high number of endangered species. Seventy two percent of all plant and animal extinctions recorded in U.S. history have occurred in Hawaii. On a global basis, over half of all recent animal extinctions have occurred on islands. Their ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to damage caused by introduced species. Coral reefs are so endangered that 70 percent will cease to function as healthy ecosystems in the next 50 years unless remedial action is taken immediately. Fifty percent of the world's mangrove forests have already been destroyed. Because of their low sea levels, islands are particularly susceptible to the ill effects of global warming.
Yet due to their typically small populations and limited economies, most islands are not able to resist pressures from outside development.