Essential Islands


Gulf Map
Gulf Map
The student will be able to use critical thinking skills to examine human reliance upon a fragile ecosystem.


  • barrier island
  • ecology
  • mainland


Coastal barriers, especially islands, perform several functions essential to human and natural communities. As dynamic systems of sand and sediment, their only constant is that of change. The forces of wind, waves, and storms carve the barrier beaches and build protective dunes. Dunes, however, can be diminished by processes that kill their anchoring plant life or otherwise trample their transient sediment.


Rank the following barrier island functions, numbering them one (most important) through ten (least important) in the left-hand blank. Place a dollar sign in the right-hand blank if the function is economically important. Write ECO in the same blank if the function is an ecological necessity. Record the reasons for your choices.

____ Tourism benefits to communities ____

____ Protection of the mainland from the destructive nature of the storm tides and waves ____

____ Retirement communities ____

____ Enclosing and forming bays, marshes, and estuaries ____

____ Recreation--fishing, hunting, boating, surfing, birdwatching, photography, etc. ____

____ Creation of habitat for commercial and recreational fishes and shellfish ____

____ Wintering habitat for commercial and recreational fishes and shellfish ____

____ Wintering habitat for waterfowl ____

____ Nest sites for endangered and threatened species including whooping cranes and sea turtles____

____ Habitat for migratory birds, shorebirds, and colonial waterbirds ____

____ Creation of habitat for furbearing mammals ____