I'm not positive what it is, appears to be an air return for your HVAC system. Is it connected to duct work? if so get an HVAC guy in to determine if it can be down sized without effecting your HVAC system.
I have seen similar in old homes that had them to allow heated air to travel upward to the floor above.
you can do it, however a HVAC guy can tell you if you can do it correctly. Reducing your return air in turns reduces output (at least with my limited understanding). It's all based upon volume, location, length of ductwork, type of system, etc. Don't know if anyone can tell you with the information provided, we can guess, but that'll probably be all it is .....
you might could box out ( metal duct box) part of the vent that the island goes over and put a cabinet register at the underside of the island to allow full air flow to the vent. whenever a cabinet goes over a floor vent our hvac guy builds a metal box so air travels to the living space and not all up under the cabinet, could be the same for your vent... or just put a few registers at the base of the island and the vent could pull its air when needed through the registers,assuming that the underside of the island is clear to allow air flow...
You really should have an HVAC company look at the setup. There's ways ducts get sized and if you screw around with it incorrectly you might end up really decreasing the performance of your whole system. It's entirely possible the return could be resized or moved somewhere more convenient. But someone being there to look over the whole setup it's really hard to offer anything close to useful advice. Call someone local for help.
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