The Pacific Ocean islands have long been considered a "natural laboratory", where the evolution of human cultures can be studied in the context of thousands of island ecosystems. This book presents the most recent research in the ecological history of the Pacific Islands. Focusing on the environmental impact wrought by the Oceanic populations before the advent of Western contact, the authors -- well-known archaeologists, geographers, and other natural scientists -- challenge earlier views that these islands underwent dramatic environmental change only after European colonization. They demonstrate instead that in some cases the indigenous peoples had a profound and often irreversible effect on the landscapes and biotas of the Pacific Islands and assert that these effects often had important consequences for island societies, economies, and political systems.
The book begins with an introduction to the field of environmental history as it has been practiced in the Pacific. There is then a rich collection of case studies, ranging from the large islands of Tasmania, New Zealand, and New Guinea to such smaller Pacific islands as Aitutaki, Mangaia, Ofu, Tahiti, and O'ahu in Hawaii.