BY MARK ALTAWEEL
There are over 300,000 islands in the world and most of these are poorly documented or generally unknown. A new United States Geological Survey (USGS) and Esri project has now mapped 340,691 islands of the Earth’s islands and created a GIS dataset that is publicly available.
World Islands GIS Data
As Charles Darwin noted, islands are incredibly diverse and demonstrate how life can exist in the most isolated locations. They also contain many unique cultures and languages, making them socially important. Islands are also all landmasses on our planet. Increasingly, islands are under threat from climate change and sea level rise in particular. The vast majority of islands are small and many are uninhabited. Documenting them might be the only way some of these islands will be remembered in the future. The USGS and Esri effort has created the Global Islands Explorer (GIE), which provides vectorized Global Shoreline Vector (GSV) data available to the public for download. In this database, every island, including large continental landmasses and very small islands (e.g., Key West), is documented with satellite data, topography, or other raster data as background, and information about the islands, including area, names, coastlines, tectonic plates they belong to, and other information provided.
MAPPING THE WORLD’S ISLANDS