World Travel Guides

Tokelau - Enviornment

Tokelau Environment

Tokelau is made up of three classic atolls - Atafu, Fakaofo and Nukunonu - each a necklace of tiny islets surrounding a central lagoon. The islets are the built-up remains of coral reefs which once encircled submarine volcanoes, now submerged by the lagoon. Roughly speaking, Tokelau lies midway between New Zealand and Hawaii. Its nearest neighbour is Samoa, 480km (300mi) away to the south. The three atolls themselves are by no means close neighbours: Atafu and Nukunonu are separated by 92km (57mi) of lonely South Pacific Ocean, and it's another 64km (40mi) south-east to Fakaofo.

The low-lying islands measure only 5m (16ft) at their highest point, and 200m (656ft) at their widest. As with all coral atolls, the soil is thin, infertile and poorly drained. Each atoll has its own special blessing: fresh water is plentiful on Fakaofo, Nukunonu has plenty of pandanus trees (used for weaving) and Atafu has stands of kanava trees (an excellent building material). Wildlife is limited to rats, lizards, mosquitoes and bugs, visiting seabirds, and domesticated pigs and poultry.

Tokelau's tropical climate brings average temperatures of 28°C (80°F) year round and heavy but irregular rainfall, often up to 80mm (3.5in) per day. Tropical storms are becoming more frequent, and cyclones have caused extensive damage in recent years. Global warming is a major concern for low-lying Tokelau: there's a very real risk that the atolls could be uninhabitable by the end of the 21st century.

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