Geography of Papua New Guinea

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A map of Papua New Guinea.

The geography of Papua New Guinea describes the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, the islands of New Ireland, New Britain and Bougainville, and smaller nearby islands. Together these make up the nation of Papua New Guinea in tropical Oceania, located in the western edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Papua New Guinea is largely mountainous, and much of it is covered with tropical rainforest; the New Guinea Highlands runs the length of New Guinea, and the highest areas receive snowfall—a rarity in the tropics. Within Papua New Guinea Mount Wilhelm is the highest peak, at 4,509 m (14,793 ft). There are several major rivers, notably the Sepik River, which is 1,126 km (699 mi) long, which winds through lowland swamp plains to the north coast, and the Fly River at 1,050 km (652 mi) in length, which flows through one of the largest swamplands in the world to the south coast; the Highlands consist of a number of smaller ranges running west to east, such as the Finisterre Range which dominates the Huon Peninsula to north of the city of Lae.

Papua New Guinea has one land border—that which divides the island of New Guinea. Across the 820 km (509 mi) border, the western half of New Guinea is officially known as Papua province, governed by Indonesia. Papua New Guinea's border with Indonesia is not straight; the border loops slightly to the west in the south-central part of New Guinea. Papua New Guinea's Western Province contains that loop. There are maritime borders with Australia to the south and Solomon Islands to the southeast.

Physical geography[edit]

New Guinea's topography.

Papua New Guinea has a total area of 462 840 km², of which 452 860 km² is land and 9 980 km² is water, its coastline is 5 152 km long.

The northernmost point is Mussau Island (1°23' S), southernmost point is Hemenahei Island (11°29' S), easternmost point is Olava, Bougainville (155°57' E) and the westernmost point is either Bovakaka along the Fly River border with Indonesia or Mabudawan (140°54' E).

Papua New Guinea has several volcanoes, as it is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Volcanic eruptions are not rare, and the area is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis because of this; the volcanic disturbance can often cause severe earthquakes, which in turn can also cause tsunamis. Papua New Guinea is also prone to landslides, often caused by deforestation in major forests; the mountainous regions of Papua New Guinea are the areas most susceptible to landslides causing damage.

Offshore islands include the small, forested Admiralty Islands, the largest of which is Manus, to the north of the main island of New Guinea; these have a distinct plant and animal life from the main island but the natural forest has been cleared in places for logging and agriculture.[1]


Tropical; northwest monsoon (December to March), southeast monsoon (May to October); slight seasonal temperature variation. In lower altitudes, the temperature is around 80 °F (27 °C) year round, but the higher altitudes are a constant 70 °F (21 °C).

Human geography[edit]

Papua New Guinea's cities, main towns, selected smaller centres, rivers and high peaks

Maritime claims: measured from claimed archipelagic baselines
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nautical miles (370 km)
territorial sea: 12 nautical miles (22 km)

Land use[edit]

Natural resources: gold, copper, silver, natural gas, timber, oil, fisheries

Land use:

  • arable land: 0.49%
  • permanent crops: 1.4%
  • other (forests, swamplands, etc.): 98.11% (2005 estimate)

Environmental issues[edit]

The rainforest is subject to deforestation as a result of growing commercial demand for tropical timber; forest clearance, especially in coastal areas, for plantations; pollution from mining projects. If the trend continues, more than half the forest that existed when Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia in 1975 will be gone by 2021.[2]

Environment - international agreements[edit]

signed, but not ratified[edit]

  • Antarctic-Environmental Protocol

signed and ratified[edit]

Extreme points[edit]

Extreme points[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Admiralty Islands lowland rain forests". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  2. ^ University of Papua New Guinea The State of the Forests in Papua New Guinea Archived 2008-07-19 at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 6°00′S 147°00′E / 6.000°S 147.000°E / -6.000; 147.000