Terrain shapes and bedrock
COUNTRYAAH, the Vanuatu archipelago and the deep-sea tomb The New
Hebrides tomb west of the islands originated in the
collision between two large oceanic crustal plates. This has
provided a geological environment with earthquakes, active
volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. On the two largest
islands there are remnants of older bedrock, but most of the
islands are built up by younger rocks such as lava and coral
lime. The islands are high (Espíritu Santo reaches
Tabwemasana 1,879 m above sea level) and has a topography of
mountains, plateaus and coastal lands.
Vanuatu has a maritime tropical climate with two seasons,
one hot and humid during November – April and one cool and
dry during May – October. The Southeast Passage is the
prevailing wind. The annual rainfall amounts to about 2,000
mm in the southern islands and 4,000 mm in the north. The
average temperature is 22–27 °C in the middle islands.
Tropical cyclones can wreak havoc. On March 13, 2015,
Vanuatu was hit by the tropical cyclone Pam, which, with
wind speeds of 270 km/h (75 m/s), destroyed large parts
of the country's population. In the capital Port Vila, it is
estimated that about 90 percent of the buildings were
Plant-and animal life
The natural vegetation is rainforest and in the southern
islands some dry forest with open grasslands in the
highlands. At the coasts there are, among other things,
mangrove vegetation and casuarina trees (genus
Casuariʹna). Rainforests are rich in ferns and,
especially in the highlands, orchids. A species of the
sandalwood genus (Saʹntalum) was formerly
common but is now unusual after overexploitation. There are
about 870 species of veneerogams, of which about 150 are
endemic. Some rainforests have been cleared and replaced
with cultivations of, among other things. coffee, sugar
cane, cocoa and cotton.
The fauna is poor with only twelve species of mammals,
all bats or rodents. In Vanuatu, 76 species of birds breed,
including pigeons, honey eaters, salangans and parrots
palmlori (Charmoʹsyna palmaʹrum, endemic) and
rainbow laurel (Trichogloʹssus haematoʹdus).
There are 20 species of reptiles but no amphibians. Vanuatu
is surrounded by a continuous coral reef, but the individual
islands do not have prominent beach reefs.
Vanuatu has no nature protected areas.