Federated States of Micronesia, Land and Resources
The FSM consists of more than 600 islands, of which about 60 are inhabited. From east to west, the FSM extends more than 2,700 km (1,700 mi), about twice the length of the country’s north-to-south distance. The contrast between land and sea area is great. The total land area is 702 sq km (271 sq mi), of which the islands of Pohnpei constitute well over one-half. The FSM’s exclusive economic zone, an area of the ocean where the FSM controls fishing and other rights, is more than 2.6 million sq km (1 million sq mi).
Most islands of the FSM are low-lying coral atolls (ring-shaped islands that enclose lagoons), although some of the larger islands were formed by volcanoes. Kosrae, the easternmost state, is usually considered to be one large volcanic island, but it also consists of several offshore islets, including Lelu, which is connected to the large island by a causeway. Pohnpei state contains the FSM’s largest island, the volcanic island of Pohnpei. There are also small offshore islands and outlying coral atolls. Chuuk state contains more than 200 islands and islets, including remnants of volcanic peaks in the lagoon of Chuuk Atoll and outlying coral islands. Yap, the westernmost state, consists of Yap proper (a small cluster of islands, three of which are connected by bridges) and more than 100 outlying coral islands. Unlike most other islands in the FSM, the islands of Yap proper are continental; they were formed by an uplifting of the Asian continental shelf. The volcanic islands have mountainous interiors, while the interiors of the continental islands of Yap have rolling hills. The country’s highest elevation is 790 m (2,595 ft) at Mount Ngihneni on Pohnpei.
The FSM has a tropical climate that is uniformly hot and humid. The average daily temperature range is 22° to 32°C (72° to 90°F). Rainfall varies greatly from one end of the country to the other. Yap receives about 4,570 mm (about 180 in) a year. Pohnpei receives twice that amount. Periodic droughts occur, particularly on the atolls. The FSM lies within the typhoon belt and thus destructive storms are common. They most frequently occur in the westernmost islands.
Vegetation on the volcanic islands is dense, but coconut palms thrive everywhere, including the coral atolls. The volcanic islands have relatively rich soils that support a variety of crops. Included are breadfruit, citrus and other fruits, taro, yams, and other root crops. The atolls have poorer soils and agriculture is much more limited. Although the volcanic and continental islands have rivers, the water is untreated. Thus the only source of drinking water in the FSM is rain collected in catchment systems. Water on the atolls is particularly scarce, and residents there must also rely on coconut milk.
The islands have few land animals. Chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, and rats were introduced by humans. Seabirds are numerous. Like coconuts, marine life is essential for atoll dwellers and it is abundant everywhere. There are no harmful reptiles or insects.