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Last Updated: Sep 11, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

The Pacific Print Page

The Pacific : Where is it?


    Some examples of the effect of Global Warming

    Click on the above pictures

    to read about some of the 

    effects of Global Warming

    Pacific Climate Change Science

    Small island developing countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change. During this century, these countries will face increasing threats to sustainable development from the impacts of climate change. Sectors which are likely to be most affected include human health, infrastructure, coastal resources, disaster management, fresh water availability, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, marine ecosystems and tourism.

    This website provides some of the key scientific tools and outputs developed under PCCSP and outlines the science and other key activities being undertaken as part of PACCSAP.

    To learn more about the effects of climate change in Pacific Island countries and the work of PACCSAP and PCCSP please view the Climate Change in the Pacific video.


      The Pacific in pictures


        Great Pacific Garbabge Dump

        Pacific Islander Culture


                                                 Click for Pacific Island...  Countries and their culture


        The Cook Islands

        The Pacific Ring of Fire

        Click on Image

        Population and land area of selected countries and dependencies within the pacific region


        Year of
        Last Census

        Population at
        Last Census

        Land Area

        Fiji 2007    837.271 18,273
        New Caledonia 2009 245,580 18,576
        Papua New Guinea 2000 5,190,786 462,840
        Solomon Islands 1999 409,042 30,407
        Vanuatu 2009 234,023 12,281
        Fed. States of
        2000 107,008 701
        Guam 2000 154,805 541
        Kiribati 2005 92,533 811
        Marshall Islands 1999 50,840 181
        Nauru 2006 9,233 21
        N Mariana Islands 2000 69,221 457
        Palau 2005 19,907 444
        American Samoa 2000 57,291 199
        Cook Islands 2006 15,324 237
        French Polynesia 2007 259,706 3,521
        Niue 2006 1,625 259
        Pitcairn Islands 2013 46-48 5
        Samoa 2006 180,741 2,935
        Tonga 2006 101,991 650
        Tuvalu 2002 9,561 26
        Wallis and Futuna 2008 13,445 142

          Subject Guide

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          Alma Simmonds

          How an Atoll is formed

          An atoll is one of the beautiful yet mysterious land formations that occur in remote locations of warm tropical waters, such as the Pacific Ocean. Formed over 30 million years, an atoll is home for up to 300 species of corals and a host of other marine life. Viewed from above, it resembles a flat ring of sandy land with a lagoon in the center. An atoll should not be confused with an island, as its geographic formation is significantly different.

          Charles Darwin provided an explanation for the formation of an atoll in 1842, which is still accepted widely today. Based on his crude observations of South Pacific atolls, Darwin concluded that these unique land creations were a result of two factors that occurred simultaneously –coral reef growth and the gradual sinking of an oceanic island.

          The process of atoll formation takes as long as 30 million years. It begins with a new tropical oceanic island, which exists due to tectonic plate collisions or plate movements over oceanic hot spots of volcanic activity. Most atolls, especially those located in the Pacific Ocean, are products of previous volcanic islands. These newly formed volcanic islands will have no sign of any life form, whether on land or in the water. This is because tropical waters are relatively warm and lack sufficient nutrients to sustain marine life.

          One hundred thousand years later, a fringing coral reef surrounds the shores of the volcanic island. Coral reefs are built by hermatypic corals, organisms that thrive in warm surface waters. These organisms multiply and reproduce corals all along the island's shoreline. New corals grow on top of older or dead ones, and the process continues as the volcanic island begins to sink. This is the second step in atoll formation.

          Over the next 25 million years, fringing coral reefs turn into barrier reefs. Barrier reefs are formed when the island sinks almost to sea level while corals continue to grow upwards. These geographic movements in opposing directions result in the development of lagoons between the sinking island and the growing coral reef.

          An atoll is born five million years after this, when the island has subsided completely beneath sea level and the coral reef continues its growth towards and above the surface of the water. The lagoon that was produced in the earlier stage now dominates the center of the atoll. Eventually, due to wind and wave erosion, corals break into pieces and become sandy, creating a land surface called a cay.

          Atolls are renowned for their beautiful coral reefs and colorful marine life. Many are attractive tourist spots, particularly for dive enthusiasts and snorkelers. Famous atolls around the world include those within the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Coral Sea Islands, and the Caroline Islands in the Pacific Ocean, as well as Chagos Archipelago and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean. 

          [From the website]


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