Terrain shapes and bedrock
According to 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 damaged..
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.