The Sunda Islands are a group of islands that form part of the Nusantara archipelago.
They are further divided into the Greater Sunda Islands and the Lesser Sunda Islands.
The islands are divided up between four countries, Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Much of the islands are the territory of Indonesia. The island of Borneo is divided up between Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The island of Timor is divided between East Timor and Indonesia. Two small islands also belong to East Timor.
List of Islands
Greater Sunda Islands
Lesser Sunda Islands, from west to east
Barat Daya Islands
The Lesser Sunda Islands or Nusa Tenggara ("Southeast Islands") are a group of islands in the southern Maritime Southeast Asia, north of Australia. Together with the Greater Sunda Islands to the west they make up the Sunda Islands. The islands are part of a volcanic arc, the Sunda Arc, formed by subduction along the Java Trench in the Java Sea.
The Lesser Sundas consist of many islands, mostly part of Indonesia. Some of the islands, notably part of Timor, are the territory of the state of East Timor since its independence in 2002.
The Indonesian part of the Lesser Sunda Islands now make up of four provinces :
West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat)
East Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Timur)
The Lesser Sunda Islands consist of two geologically distinct archipelagos.The northern archipelago, which includes Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores and Wetar, is volcanic in origin, a number of these, like Mount Rinjani on Lombok, are still active while others, such as Kelimutu on Flores with its three multi-coloured crater lakes, are extinct. It began to be formed during the Pliocene, about 15 million years ago, as a result of the collision between the Australian and the Asian plates. The islands of the southern archipelago, including Sumba, Timor and Babar, are non-volcanic and appear to belong to the Australian plate. The geology and ecology of the northern archipelago share a similar history, characteristics and processes with the southern Maluku Islands, which continue the same island arc to the east.
There is a long history of geological study of these regions since Indonesian colonial times; however, the geological formation and progression is not fully understood, and theories of the geological evolution of the islands changed extensively during the last decades of the 20th century. Lying at the collision of two tectonic plates, the Lesser Sunda Islands comprise some of the most geologically complex and active regions in the world. Biodiversity and distribution is affected by various tectonic activities. The islands of the northern archipelago are geologically young being from 1 to 15 million years old, and have never been attached to a larger land mass. Only Bali was part of the Ice Age continent of Sundaland, separated by the Lombok Strait from a 400-mile-long island including present-day Lombok, Sumbawa, Komodo, Flores, Solor, Adonara, and Lembata. Pantar and Alor formed a small island just to the east, while Sumba and Timor remained separate islands to the south.
These islands are home to unique species including seventeen endemic birds (of the 273 birds found on the islands). The endemic mammals are the endangered Flores Shrew (Suncus mertensi), the vulnerable Komodo Rat (Komodomys rintjanus), and Lombok Flying Fox (Pteropus lombocensis), Sunda Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus heran) while the carnivorous Komodo dragon, which at three metres long and ninety kilograms in weight is the world's largest lizard, is found on Komodo, Rincah, Gili Motang, and the coast of northwestern Flores.
Activities popular with tourists include surfing at Kuta on Lombok, hiking on Flores and Lombok, and snorkeling or diving off the Gili Islands and Labuanbajo on Flores. Urban areas in this ecoregion (which does not include Bali, Timor or Sumba) include: on Lombok the island capital Mataram and the nearby beach resort of Senggigi; on Sumbawa the port and main town of the east coast, Bima and Sumbawa Besar in the west; and the ports of Maumere (the largest town on the island), Larantuka and Ende on Flores. Lombok and Sumbawa have surfaced roads, but the other large island Flores is too mountainous for easy road transport. The main entry point to the Lesser Sunda islands is Bali and there are smaller airports at Maumere and Mataram while transport between the islands is mainly by boat.
Threats and preservation
More than half of the original vegetation of the islands has been cleared for planting of rice and other crops, for settlement and by consequent forest fires. Only Sumbawa now contains a large area of intact natural forest, while Komodo, Rincah and Padar are now protected as Komodo National Park.
While many ecological problems affect both small islands and large landmasses, small islands suffer their particular problems and are highly exposed to external forces. Development pressures on small islands are increasing, although their effects are not always anticipated. Although Indonesia is richly endowed with natural resources, the resources of the small islands of Nusa Tenggara are limited and specialised; furthermore human resources in particular are limited.
General observations about small islands that can be applied to Nusa Tenggara include :
a higher proportion of the landmass will be affected by volcanic activity, earthquakes, landslips, and cyclone damage;
Climates are more likely to be maritime influenced;
Catchment areas are smaller and degree of erosion higher;
A higher proportion of the landmass is made up of coastal areas;
A higher degree of environmental specialisation, including a higher proportion of endemic species in an overall depauperate community;
Societies may retain a strong sense of culture having developed in relative isolation;
Small island populations are more likely to be affected by economic migration