Fiji, Land and Resources
Fiji consists of more than 800 islands and islets. About 100 of the islands are inhabited. The islands cover a total land area of 18,376 sq km (7,095 sq mi). The two largest islands, Viti Levu (10,429 sq km/4,027 sq mi) and Vanua Levu (5,556 sq km/2,145 sq mi), comprise more than 85 percent of the total area. Other major islands are Taveuni, Kadavu, and Koro. The Yasawa Group lies to the west of these major islands, and the Lau Group is to the east. Fijiís large islands are of volcanic origin, with mountains rising to a maximum elevation of 1,324 m (4,344 ft) at Mount Tomaniivi on Viti Levu. Some of the smaller islands are coral formations, rising only a few meters above sea level.
Rivers on the mountainous islands cut valleys into the rugged terrain and form deltas with rich alluvial soils. The largest river is the Rewa, located on Viti Levu, which is navigable for more than 160 km (more than 100 mi). Other major rivers on Viti Levu are the Sigatoka, Nadi, and Ba. The Dreketi is the largest river on Vanua Levu.
The climate in Fiji is tropical. The average annual temperature is 25įC (77įF). December to April are the hottest months, with daily highs of 32įC (90įF). The rainy season coincides with the warmest months. The southeastern windward sides of the islands receive as much as 3,300 mm (130 in) of rain a year, while the leeward northern sides receive about 2,500 mm (100 in). Cyclones occasionally strike Fiji. In January 1993 Cyclone Kina caused great destruction on Viti Levu.
Fijiís native plants include hardwood trees, mangroves, bamboo, and coconut palms. The only native mammals are rats and bats, but settlers brought cattle, dogs, goats, horses, and sheep. There are 109 species of birds, which include owls and parrots. Snakes and lizards are also present. Almost all of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs, giving the Fiji Islands one of the greatest total areas of coral reef in the world.
Forests cover 45 percent of the islands. Rain forests exist on the windward sides of the mountainous islands, while the leeward sides have grassy plains. The islands suffer from a 0.21 percent (1990-2000) annual rate of deforestation. The loss of trees has resulted in soil erosion, and silt washed into the ocean can smother coral. The siltation, combined with oil exploration, sewage dumping, and overfishing, threaten Fijiís coral reefs as well as the coastal ecosystems. With its rich plant and animal life and low population growth, however, the Fiji Islandsí environmental problems are not as severe as other places in the world.
Protected land makes up 1 percent (1997) of the countryís total land area. The government has ratified international environmental agreements pertaining to climate change, desertification, endangered species, law of the sea, marine life conservation, ozone layer protection, and tropical timber.
Fijiís principal resources are its hardwood trees and abundant marine life. There are also small deposits of gold, copper, and silver.