A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity

By Stephen A. Royle | Go to book overview

2

Islands

Their formation and nature

The distribution and formation of islands

Islands are distributed across the globe, but this distribution is far from even. Nor can the distribution be described as random, given that the appearance of any island is a logical response, indeed presumably an inevitable response, to a set of physical circumstances operating at that place at the time of formation and since. Island formation can basically be subdivided into two main causes. First there are islands that are appended to a continental fringe and whose origin and formation are tied in to changes at the regional scale, such as those operated through glaciation and all that is associated with it, including isostatic and eustatic adjustments. Continental fringe islands can also result from the local scale operation of forces, such as erosion, weathering and deposition.

Other islands, often further from the edge of the continents, result from the operation of global forces such as plate tectonics and its associated vulcanicity. In Europe, the volcano of Mount Vesuvius may be on the Italian mainland, but there are also volcanic islands in the region, for example Mount Etna on Sicily and, in the Isole Lipari or Aeolian Islands north of Sicily, Stromboli and the eponymous Vulcano Island itself.


Volcanic arc islands

As the earth’s slowly moving tectonic plates meet, tremendous energy is unleashed. If the plates are grinding past each other in what is known as a transform fault boundary—as in southern California, where the Juan de Fuca plate is moving past the North American plate—these forces can result in earthquakes. If the plates meet head on at a convergent boundary, orogeny results, associated with volcanoes as well as earthquakes. There are three scenarios. If two continental plates meet, the relatively light and buoyant continental rocks buckle, as when the once separated landmass of India rammed into Asia and formed the Himalayas. There is no island formation there, nor are islands formed when an oceanic plate meets a continental plate and subducts under it. In this scenario huge linear mountain ranges form, as with the Andes where the lithosphere of the Nazca plate slides beneath the continental crust and lithosphere of the

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A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vi
  • Tables viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Islands 1
  • References 23
  • 2 - Islands 25
  • References 40
  • 3 - Insularity 42
  • 4 - Islands in the Past 68
  • 5 - Islands 87
  • 6 - Islands 110
  • 7 - Politics and Small Islands 134
  • 8 - Making a Living 166
  • References 186
  • 9 - Islands of Dreams 188
  • References 208
  • 10 - Conclusion 210
  • Index 227
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