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A floating island is a mass of floating aquatic plants, mud, and peat ranging in thickness from a few inches to several feet. Floating islands are a common natural phenomenon that are found in many parts of the world. They exist less commonly as a man-made phenomenon. Floating islands are generally found on marshlands, lakes, and similar wetland locations, and can be many hectares in size.
Sometimes referred to as tussocks, floatons, or suds, natural floating islands are composed of vegetation growing on a buoyant mat of plant roots or other organic detritus. Some cenotes in northern Mexico have natural floating islands.
They typically occur when growths of cattails, bulrush, sedge, and reeds extend outward from the shoreline of a wetland area. As the water gets deeper the roots no longer reach the bottom, so they use the oxygen in their root mass for buoyancy, and the surrounding vegetation for support to retain their top-side-up orientation. The area beneath these floating mats is exceptionally rich in aquatic lifeforms. Eventually, storm events tear whole sections free from the shore, and the islands thus formed migrate around a lake with changing winds, eventually either reattaching to a new area of the shore, or breaking up in heavy weather.
Explosive volcanic eruptions may create pumice rafts, which can float on the ocean for months or even years before becoming fully saturated and sinking. Over time, larger rafts can have grasses and palm trees growing on them.
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Floating artificial islands are generally made of bundled reeds, and the best known examples are those of the Uros people of Lake Titicaca, Peru, who build their villages upon what are in effect huge rafts of bundled totora reeds. The Uros originally created their islands to prevent attacks by their more aggressive neighbours, the Incas and Collas. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was surrounded with chinampas, small artificial islands used for agriculture known as "floating gardens" (though not really floating). Spiral Island was a more modern one-person effort to build an artificial floating island, on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
Commercial development of floating islands has begun taking place. A commercially-produced floating island was installed in the river otter enclosure at Zoo Montana in 2007. In 2009 and the beginning of 2010, a few larger islands were launched to provide nesting habitat for Caspian Tern colonies. The largest of the islands, at a record-setting 44,000 sq ft (4,100 m2), was launched into the water at Sheepy Lake. These islands are a collaboration between the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Oregon State University, and Floating Islands West, a Floating Island International license holder.
A recent US Army Corps of Engineers project was built in The Hideout, Pennsylvania as part of a watershed management project. They anticipate that the floating island will mimic nature and help improve water quality and buffer habitats against surges in nutrients and pollution. They also expect it to help reduce phosphorus levels.
- Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru
- Lake Kyoga, Uganda
- Lake Malawi, Africa
- Loktak Lake, India
- Lake Buckeye, Winter Haven, Florida
- Lake Idyl, Winter Haven, Florida
- Umbagog Lake, Maine and New Hampshire, United States
- Island Pond, Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
- Lake Visitor, Montenegro
- Lagoon of Islands, Tasmania, Australia
- Vlasina Lake, Serbia
- Lake Upemba, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Lake Chad, Africa
- Inle Lake, Burma (Myanmar)
- Prairie Lake, Barron County, Wisconsin, United States
- Prashar Lake, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India
- Çat Lake, Celikhan, Adiyaman, Turkey
- Aksakal Lake, Solhan, Bingol, Turkey
- Hartbeespoort Dam, North West, South Africa
- "Zoo Montana installs a BioHaven in Otter enclosure". 19 September 2007. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
- "Floating Island Constructed for Caspian Tern Nesting at Summer Lake Wildlife Refuge". Bird Research Northwest. 1998-03-22. Retrieved 2010-06-29.
- Waters, Kelly (2012-10-16). "Watershed management project". Wayne Independent.
- Oliver, Michael K. (1982). "Floating islands: a means of fish dispersal in Lake Malawi, Africa". Copeia 4: 748–754. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- Corbett, Keith. "Lagoon of Islands". The Unique Flora of Tasmania. Hobart District Group of The Australian Plants Society - Tasmania Inc. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
- Keen, Kevin (2011-07-30). "UPDATE: Floating island on the verge of breaking its tethers". WQOW TV. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Floating islands.|
- Inca Heartland: A site with numerous pictures of floating artificial islands on Lake Titicaca.
- Tourism Keeping Peruvian Islands Afloat article by Roderick Eime
- "Disagreement on whether to tether island that floats free in Massachusetts pond": San Francisco Chronicle
- Floating on an island