An earth-science-based classification of islands within the Pacific Basin resulted from the preparation of a database describing the location, area, and type of 1779 islands, where island type is determined as a function of the prevailing lithology and maximum elevation of each island, with an island defined as a discrete landmass composed of a contiguous land area ≥1 ha (0.01 km2) above mean high-water level.

The principal aim of the classification is to assess the spatial diversity of the geologic and geomorphic attributes of Pacific islands. It is intended to be valid at a regional scale and based on two attributes: five types of lithology (volcanic, limestone, composite, continental, surficial) and a distinction between high and low islands. It is anticipated the classification will become the basis for more focused investigation of spatial variability of the climate and ocean setting as well as the biological attributes of Pacific islands. It may also be used in spatial assessments of second-order phenomena associated with the islands, such as their vulnerability to various disasters, coastal erosion, or ocean pollution as well as human populations, built infrastructure and natural resources.

This article and associated database was created as part of the PACCSAP Project Regional coastal susceptibility assessment for the Pacific Islands.

The database is available to download as a csv file - see the link under "Additional files" at the end of the article.

The other outputs from this PACCSAP-funded project are:

(1) Technical report: €˜Regional Coastal Susceptibility Assessment for the Pacific Islands: Technical Report

(2) Three large scale annotated map sheets. Sheet 1 - Island types in the Pacific region;  Sheet 2 - €˜Indicative susceptibility of island types to climate change; Sheet 3 - €˜Geomorphic sensitivity of Pacific Island coasts to future climate-ocean processes€™.

(3) A summary report: Regional Coastal Susceptibility Assessment for the Pacific Islands: Summary Report.


Publication Year
2 016
Publication Day & Month
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Patrick D. Nunn, Lalit Kumar, Ian Eliot and Roger F. McLean
Resource Type
Rights Statement
© 2016 Nunn, PD et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Attribution Statement
Nunn, PD, Kumar, L, Eliot, I, McLean, RF (2016) Classifying Pacific islands. Geoscience Letters, 3(7) doi:10.1186/s40562-016-0041-8
General Note
For more information on the database, please contact Professor Lalit Kumar, University of New England. Email: [email protected]
Geoscience Letters 3 2016 7